June 4 - 1940 - Winston Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" Speech
By June of 1940, the situation for Great Britain in the Second World War looked dire. Nazi Germany had conquered Poland, smashed through Belgium, and pushed British and French forces out of most of Western France. The only possible "victory" was the evacuation of Dunkirk on the English Channel, despite troops being pinned down and looking like they would be slaughtered. With that backdrop, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons and made a speech encouraging Britain to fight the oncoming Nazi invasion. First, Churchill had to realistically and carefully acknowledge the course of the war to that point. Then, he had to describe the situation that Britain was in, as the only power left to fight the Nazis. Yet in doing all of that, Churchill highlighted the brilliant fighting of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. This allowed him to urge the nation to keep fighting, using a famous peroration that used strong, plain language to reinforce the idea not only that Britain would fight, but that the fight would be a brutal one that Britain had to win.