Queen Elizabeth's words of selfless service on her 21st birthday must be a lesson to our young people

THE removal of the bust of Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office at the request of President Biden inspired me to reread some of the greatest speeches Britain’s most famous Prime Minister had ever given.

That exercise soon called to mind the highly acclaimed box-office hit, “The King’s Speech.”  A movie based on real-life events in which Churchill played an integral part.

While highly praised and awarded, I had purposely chosen not to watch the film since its release in 2010.

My main reason for avoiding it had been instinctual.  Like the United States, the film and entertainment industry in the United Kingdom is dominated by the left.

As one who has long been a fan of Queen Elizabeth II, and the image and often reality of what the Royal Family represents to millions of people in the United Kingdom and around the world, I was extremely hesitant to watch a film made by those on the left who often proclaim their strong dislike for the Queen and the Monarchy itself.

The film of course, dealing with Prince Albert, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, who became King George VI on May 12, 1937 after his brother had abdicated the throne to marry a twice divorced American.

More specifically, “The King’s Speech” showcases (with creative license and outright fiction in spots) the lead-up to the speech King George VI must deliver to the people of the United Kingdom following his government’s declaration of war against Nazi Germany.

The hook for the film being the “stammer” or “stuttering” problem King George VI had at one point in his life which would have to be overcome to deliver the speech of his lifetime.

Leaving aside the creative license and revisionist history of the film – and some on the left do sadly and wrongly choose to rewrite actual history to reflect their own ideology of today – I overall, truly enjoyed the movie and the performance of Colin Firth as King George VI.

I did so most because it did serve to remind me of what a truly exceptional person, leader, and Monarch King George VI was during his relatively short time on this Earth.  Qualities which he did in-fact pass along to his daughter, now Queen Elizabeth II.

After finally watching “The King’s Speech,” I was motivated to go over some of the past speeches of the current Monarch.

And in doing so, I reread one she had delivered live on the radio upon the occasion of her 21st birthday when she was still “Princess Elizabeth.”

The “hook” for that speech being the truly remarkable moment when, with a clear, steady, and strong voice, she made a pact with the people of the United Kingdom.

Said the then young Princess: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong…”

Today, in the age of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and countless young people in virtually every nation looking for instant gratification and personal “fame” at seemingly any cost, it is truly shockingly refreshing and reaffirming to either watch those remarks taped on April 21, 1947, or read the transcript and realize that “Once Upon a Time,” altruism, class, and a belief in family, faith, and nation did exist in one so young with so much weight upon her shoulders.

That is not to say that many young people of today don’t share those same qualities.  For they surely do.  It’s just that they are fewer and much father between.

It can be illuminating to contrast the “We are all in this together” mantra of today when dealing with the Covid-19 virus with the remarks of the 21 year-old Princess delivered less than two years after a World War which tragically killed over 60 million human beings.

Perspective is often a great teacher.  

In her remarks, the Princess addresses the young people of the United Kingdom:  “Will you,” she politely asks.  “The youth of the British family of nations, let me speak on my birthday as your representative?

"Now that we are coming to manhood and womanhood it is surely a great joy to us all to think that we shall be able to take some of the burden off the shoulders of our elders who have fought and worked and suffered to protect our childhood.”

How many young people today, be they in the United Kingdom, the United States, or elsewhere, think of taking “some of the burden off the shoulders of our elders who have fought and worked and suffered to protect our childhood?”

Again, some to be sure.  But less and less in an age of “Me, first.”

I would encourage all, young and old, to watch or read the remarks of then Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday.  Words of selfless service for those in need forged by the role models who taught her.   

The steel behind “The King’s Speech” led to those words of wisdom from one so young.  Woe us all, when those words and the altruistic intent behind them, are no more.

  • Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and an author.     

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