Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The King's Speech

Not surprisingly, the award-winning movie, The King’s Speech, has opened a national dialog about stuttering.  But the story of King George VI’s struggle is about much more than overcoming a speech impediment.  It’s about work, and what happens when one is handed a job for which one so clearly seems ill-suited.  And, while most of us maintain an illusion of choice about our selection of jobs, an heir to a royal throne has no such fantasies.  Not only will his work be part of his life, but his life will be his work.
If one had a crystal ball to see into the future, knowing all that England would face as a nation at war, who would ever choose an awkward, shy, stammering man to be its leader?  Or his wife, who had demurred to accept his marriage proposal because she didn’t want to carry the weight of being a royal?  Could she ever really become the brave and encouraging mother-figure that a war-battered country needed?

But G-d didn’t ask this couple for a self-assessment – nor does He ask one of you or me.  G-d knows us better than we know ourselves, and is sure that we can do our assigned work.  
Looking back, we can only marvel at the Heavenly gears that turned to cause Edward VIII to renounce his throne for an almost twice-divorced socialite.  And, while the future George VI sobbed upon hearing he would bear the weight of kingship, we can only be grateful for G-d’s benevolence.  Not only did the new king and queen bolster the morale of their nation, their presence on the throne saved the world from an England led by the Nazi-sympathizing Edward VIII, later titled “Duke of Windsor.”  Hitler saw the abdication as “a severe loss for [Nazi-Germany].” 

As Governor of the Bahamas, in 1942, the Duke of Windsor blamed unrest in Nassau on “men of Central European Jewish descent,” and as late as the 1960s, confided to a friend, “I never thought Hitler was such a bad chap.”  Would England ever have accepted 10,000 Jewish children from Germany on Kindertransports with Edward as monarch?
If you find yourself confronting a task, a life-path, or a situation for which you feel particularly ill-suited, remember George VI.  Know that G-d has faith in your ability to fulfill this charge and has specifically chosen you as just the right person for the job.  There will likely be obstacles to overcome, personal foibles to wrestle with; it will not be easy, but you will persevere.  You will not be the one who shirked his Divinely ordained role.  You will be the one who embraced it, with all of its difficulties. 

And in the end, the only one who will be surprised by your success is you.


  1. Another interesting aspect of this story is that the man who wrote the screenplay of The King's Speech identified his own stuttering as having come from his own family's war-time experiences. His grandparents were murdered in the concentration camps and his famiy fled England:
    "As German bombs began to fall on London, Seidler and his family boarded an ocean liner for the United States and were shocked mid-Atlantic when a German submarine sank another boat in their convoy. Seidler began having recurring nightmares about trying to escape a gas chamber, which continued into his 50s. “I’m pretty sure I left England speaking normally,” he said. “But I arrived in America as a stutterer.”"

  2. That's fascinating, I didn't know that there was a personal connection between the author of the screenplay and the history of the Jews in World War Two England!

  3. Thanks for the interesting post

  4. Thanks for reading. I hope you'll stop by again.

  5. The comment about "self-assessment" is so pithy. This blog presents a refreshing viewpoint about how we view our abilities and what our trust (emunah, even?) can do to actualize those abilities. Todah!

  6. Bevakashah!
    I hope you'll take a moment to vote in the weekly poll. Shabbat Shalom.

  7. leah, very interesting and thoughtful - please keep it up!