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Churchill beat more than one demon

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For obvious reasons, we think of Winston Churchill as a great leader in wartime, defying all odds to save Britain from the Nazis.

Churchill also was a great leader from the start, defying odds to push legislation through Parliament.

Here’s a taste of that earlier time, roughly 1908-1911.

Churchill survived his distant and harshly critical parents through the good graces of Elizabeth Anne Everest, his nanny and the chief figure of his childhood. She encouraged and comforted him, and he cherished her. He believed his parents were wrong to dismiss her to a life of poverty after her services were no longer required.

Churchill supported his former nanny as best he could. With her in mind, he also supported legislation creating old-age pensions—the British equivalent of Social Security.

Churchill regarded the social reforms he championed as a hedge against revolutionary fever. He pushed through Parliament laws ending sweatshop labor, creating job placement exchanges and unemployment insurance, regulating mine safety and limiting working hours for shop employees.

Churchill overcame other odds. Always considered a lackluster student, he nonetheless achieved mastery of English. No British statesman ever loved words more.

He wrote thousands of articles and more than 40 books. His account of World War II runs well over 2 million words, nearly twice as long as another impressive work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

By this reckoning, Churchill is among the few authors (including J.K. Rowling) who enjoyed huge commercial success from what they learned at school.

The lesson: Defy the odds. You’ll win.

— Adapted from Churchill, Paul Johnson, Viking.

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