I just finished a biography of Churchill by a man who knew him personally. It was very brief (though Churchill himself was a boxer), but it made its point: to paraphrase the great man himself, no man in the 20th century did so much for so many in so long with such setbacks, or had such fun doing it as W. Churchill.
Without Churchill, the United Kingdom might have lost World War I. But even if it had, without Churchill victory in the next war would have been impossible.
He had many strengths: virtually impeccable command of the English language, the sharpest tongue in history (besides perhaps the Bard), unflagging devotion to the ideals he believed in, courage, an utter lack of physical fear, and the ability to accept both victory and defeat magnanimously (he was glad of Hitler’s suicide because, in victory, he did not see the need to hang him.) He was faithful to one wife until his death.
In addition to being one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, he was an excellent author, writing more than two million words in his ninety years on Earth. His speeches moved the world. His courage and fierce determination heartened haggard London during the Blitz which almost brought that country to its knees.
Of course, he was not a perfect man. He was rash and reckless. In his early years, he oozed from continent to continent, seeking out wars to win medals, glory, recognition, and wealth. He made many massive mistakes that cast him out of power several times.
But he rebounded. Churchill was not a godly man, but he was a manly man. He was not afraid of his emotions, but nor did he let them, except on rare occasions, take ahold of him. “The last lion,” they called him, and rightly so. I couldn’t begin to summarize what made Churchill such a great man (you can spend your entire life reading Churchill biographies. I really liked Paul Johnson’s VERY short treatment of the man) but I can say this: he exhibited manly qualities that are in large respects missing from the leading men in politics and culture today.
P.S. Churchill was not, in fact, a boxer, and I have no idea what his underwear preferences were. However, I couldn’t resist the pun.