The magnificent new Churchill movie, “Darkest Hour,” easily counts among the year’s best, but a crucial scene sends a message the real Sir Winston would have hated.
In the movie, the Prime Minister wavers over starting peace talks with Hitler, and on the way to a cabinet meeting, he wanders into the Underground—London’s subway. He asks the opinions of ordinary Englishmen in his car, and—only when they tell him to keep fighting at all costs—does he convey that message to Parliament in the famous, “we shall fight on the beaches” speech.
It’s a touching sequence, but totally misleading: Churchill never rode the Underground, and never shared the comforting, populist notion that leaders should take direction and inspiration from the common man. Like Reagan, Thatcher or Lincoln, Churchill knew that great leaders must provide inspiration and direction to the masses, not the other way around.
That’s a role today’s leading figures must learn, and embrace.