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British Motto a Good One to Live By

A wise man indeed, Rabbi Edwin Goldberg of Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida, wrote this letter to the editor of the Miami Herald and also published it in his blog.  You can see it there, but it so impressed me as advice for the new year, he generously gave me permission to reprint it in the Sneaky Kitchen.  Please read.

Keep Calm and Carry On
by Rabbi Edwin Goldberg

This weekend, the new movie, “The King’s Speech” opens in South Florida.  It tells the story of King George VI struggling with his speech impediment.  For the last few months I have been thinking about George VI but for another reason.  Last February Melanie and I were in London and we visited the Churchill War Room and Museum.  In the gift shop we saw a poster with the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” as well as a picture of a crown.  We learned that the crown represented King George VI and the slogan was to be used if the Nazis invaded England.  The poster was never introduced (and fortunately the Nazis never invaded).  The poster campaign was forgotten until it was rediscovered ten years ago in a store room.  It has now been introduced and has made a splash on both sides of the Atlantic.

I love the British understatement of this slogan.  I mean, do we really think this positive attitude would have done any good against the S.S.?  But that’s the British for you.  I once read of an elderly London woman whose flat was destroyed during the Blitz.  A bobby found a little bit of gin left in a bottle under the debris and offered it to the woman.  She rejected it out of hand, declaring, “Oh no, that’s for emergencies!”

“Keep Calm and Carry On” is not only useful for the British, of course.  It is a nice way for us to remember to be mindful of who we are and how we should behave in our families, at work and on our South Florida streets.  I have this slogan in my office and at home.  It is very helpful.  I must admit I also have a sign in my office with the opposite message: “Now Panic and Freak Out” – accompanied by an upside down crown.  I know that every day I have a choice between keeping calm and freaking out.  We all do.

The Torah portion this week introduces us to Moses.  He truly is an outstanding leader.  Like King George VI he had a speech impediment.  But he rose above his disability in part because he favored keeping calm over freaking out.  It all goes to show what we can accomplish with the right emotional quotient.

When George VI was helping England survive the Nazis, the United States had President Roosevelt.  It’s been said of him that he had a second rate intellect but a first rate disposition.  Which may be just what we need in a leader these days as well.

In the coming year, may we recognize the choice we all have and choose, more often than not, to keep calm and carry on.

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