Churchill on the Optimist and the Pessimist

Churchill on the Optimist and the Pessimist

Opti­mist and Pes­simist: Fif­teen min­utes of fame! David Davis MP, Sec­re­tary of State for Brex­it, boots one in his recent speech and I’m final­ly in The Guardian. Prob­a­bly the first and last time, giv­en my opinions. **

Ques­tion: Refer­ring to your posts of quotations Churchill nev­er said, do you know who actu­al­ly did say “A pes­simist sees the dif­fi­culty in every oppor­tu­nity; an opti­mist sees the oppor­tu­nity in every dif­fi­cul­ty”? I find no attri­bu­tion oth­er than to Churchill.

Pessimist: Not Churchill’s Quip

Answer: Sor­ry. I can’t track it; nor can my col­league Ralph Keyes, edi­tor of The Quote Ver­i­fi­er.

Like many “red her­rings,” the optimist/pessimist quote is all over the web ascribed to Churchill–and not one of those appear­ances offers a source (speech, book or what­ev­er). If he said it, no one has pro­duced the source.

Churchill did say some amus­ing and thought­ful things about opti­mists and pessimists:

We remem­ber the sar­don­ic war-time joke about the opti­mist and the pes­simist. The opti­mist was the man who did not mind what hap­pened so long as it did not hap­pen to him. The pes­simist was the man who lived with the opti­mist. (1 Decem­ber, 1938, “How Stand Britain and France Since Munich?” Dai­ly Tele­graph; reprint­ed in Step by Step, first edi­tion, page 293.)

For myself I am an optimist—it does not seem to be much use being any­thing else…. (9 Novem­ber 1954, Lord Mayor’s Ban­quet, Guild­hall, Lon­don; The Unwrit­ten Alliance, page 195.)

** Optimist: Nice lines about Europe?

In report­ing this mis­quote in The Guardian, 19 June 2017, Mr. David Hen­ley kind­ly links to this post, while adding:

The great man did, how­ev­er, come up with a few nice lines about Europe. The “sov­er­eign rem­e­dy” to the tragedy of post­war Europe, he said in 1946, was to “re-cre­ate the Euro­pean fam­i­ly … and pro­vide it with a struc­ture under which it can dwell in peace, in safe­ty and in free­dom. We must build a kind of Unit­ed States of Europe.” (Zurich Uni­ver­si­ty, 19 Sep­tem­ber 1946)

A lit­tle more dig­ging would pro­duce a cou­ple of oth­er Churchill lines, from a time when Europe had begun indeed to unite:

It is only when plans for unit­ing Europe take a fed­er­al form that we our­selves can­not take part, because we can­not sub­or­di­nate our­selves or the con­trol of British pol­i­cy to fed­er­al author­i­ties. (House of Com­mons, 29 Novem­ber 1951)

We are not mem­bers of the Euro­pean Defence Com­mu­ni­ty, nor do we intend to be merged in a fed­er­al Euro­pean sys­tem. We feel we have a spe­cial rela­tion­ship to both. (House of Com­mons, 11 May, 1953)

What Churchill real­ly thought about Euro­pean union is devel­oped here­in. See “Zurich +70” and “Bri­tan­nia Waives the Rules.” Not like­ly to make The Guardian, I fear.

Quotations are from…

Churchill By Him­self (USA) and Churchill in His Own Words (new edi­tion, UK).

3 thoughts on “Churchill on the Optimist and the Pessimist

  1. Howdy just want­ed to give you a brief heads up and
    let you know a few of the pic­tures aren’t load­ing properly.

    I’m not sure why but I think its a link­ing issue. I’ve tried it in two dif­fer­ent inter­net browsers and both show the same outcome.

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