“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950)
George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist, and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic. Following a political awakening, he joined the gradualist Fabian Society and became its most prominent pamphleteer. Shaw had been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he sought to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social and religious ideas. By the early twentieth century his reputation as a dramatist was secured with a series of critical and popular successes that included Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma and Caesar and Cleopatra.
Shaw’s expressed views were often contentious; he promoted eugenics and alphabet reform, and opposed vaccination and organised religion. He courted unpopularity by denouncing both sides in the First World War as equally culpable, and although not a republican, castigated British policy on Ireland in the postwar period. These stances had no lasting effect on his standing or productivity as a dramatist; the inter-war years saw a series of often ambitious plays, which achieved varying degrees of popular success. In 1938 he provided the screenplay for a filmed version of Pygmalion for which he received an Academy Award. His appetite for politics and controversy remained undiminished; by the late 1920s he had largely renounced Fabian Society gradualism and often wrote and spoke favourably of dictatorships of the right and left—he expressed admiration for both Mussolini and Stalin. In the final decade of his life he made fewer public statements, but continued to write prolifically until shortly before his death, aged ninety-four, having refused all state honours, including the Order of Merit in 1946.
Since Shaw’s death scholarly and critical opinion has varied about his works, but he has regularly been rated as second only to Shakespeare among British dramatists; analysts recognise his extensive influence on generations of English-language playwrights. The word “Shavian” has entered the language as encapsulating Shaw’s ideas and his means of expressing them.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790)
Benjamin Franklin FRS FRSE (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, free-mason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He founded many civic organisations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.
Franklin earned the title of “The First American” for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was a pioneer in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, “In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.” To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.”
Franklin became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia, the leading city in the colonies, publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette at the age of 23. He became wealthy publishing this and Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he authored under the pseudonym “Richard Saunders”. After 1767, he was associated with the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a newspaper that was known for its revolutionary sentiments and criticisms of British policies.
He pioneered and was first president of Academy and College of Philadelphia which opened in 1751 and later became the University of Pennsylvania. He organized and was the first secretary of the American Philosophical Society and was elected president in 1769. Franklin became a national hero in America as an agent for several colonies when he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. An accomplished diplomat, he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations. His efforts proved vital for the American Revolution in securing shipments of crucial munitions from France.
He was promoted to deputy postmaster-general for the British colonies in 1753, having been Philadelphia postmaster for many years, and this enabled him to set up the first national communications network. During the Revolution, he became the first United States Postmaster General. He was active in community affairs and colonial and state politics, as well as national and international affairs. From 1785 to 1788, he served as governor of Pennsylvania. He initially owned and dealt in slaves but, by the 1750s, he argued against slavery from an economic perspective and became one of the most prominent abolitionists.
His colourful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and his status as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, have seen Franklin honoured more than two centuries after his death on coinage and the $100 bill, warships, and the names of many towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations, as well as countless cultural references.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965)
Winston Churchill was an inspirational statesman, writer, orator and leader who led Britain to victory in the Second World War. He served as Conservative Prime Minister twice – from 1940 to 1945 (before being defeated in the 1945 general election by the Labour leader Clement Attlee) and from 1951 to 1955.
Winston Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire and was of rich, aristocratic ancestry. Although achieving poor grades at school, his early fascination with militarism saw him join the Royal Cavalry in 1895. As a soldier and part-time journalist, Churchill travelled widely, including trips to Cuba, Afghanistan, Egypt and South Africa.
Churchill was elected as Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900, before defecting to the Liberal Party in 1904 and spending the next decade climbing the ranks of the Liberal government. He was First Lord of the Admiralty (the civil/political head of the Royal Navy) by the time of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, which he created. Heavily criticised for this error, he resigned from this position and travelled to the Western Front to fight himself.
The interwar years saw Churchill again ‘cross the floor’ from the Liberals, back to the Conservative Party. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924, when he controversially opted for Britain to re-join the Gold Standard. Following the Tory electoral defeat in 1929, Churchill lost his seat and spent much of the next 11 years out of office, mainly writing and making speeches. Although he was alone in his firm opposition to Indian Independence, his warnings against the Appeasement of Nazi Germany were proven correct when the Second World War broke out in 1939.
Following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation in 1940, Churchill was chosen to succeed him as Prime Minister of an all-party coalition government.
Churchill, who also adopted the self-created position of Minister for Defence, was active both in administrative and diplomatic functions in prosecuting the British war effort. Some of his most memorable speeches were given in this period, and are credited with stimulating British morale during periods of great hardship. However, Labour leader Clement Attlee’s unexpected General Election victory in 1945 saw Churchill out of office and once again concentrating on public speaking. In his 1946 speech in the USA, the instinctive pro-American famously declared that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent”, and warned of the continued danger from a powerful Soviet Russia.
By his re-election in 1951, Churchill was, in the words of Roy Jenkins, “gloriously unfit for office”. Ageing and increasingly unwell, he often conducted business from his bedside, and while his powerful personality and oratory ability endured, the Prime Minister’s leadership was less decisive than during the war. His second term was most notable for the Conservative Party’s acceptance of Labour’s newly created Welfare State, and Churchill’s effect on domestic policy was limited. His later attempts at decreasing the developing Cold War through personal diplomacy failed to produce significant results, and poor health forced him to resign in 1955, making way for his Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Eden.
Churchill died in 1965, and was honoured with a state funeral.
“Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door”
KYLE CHANDLER (b.1965)
Kyle Martin Chandler (born September 17, 1965) is an American actor, best known for his role as Gary Hobson on Early Edition and as Coach Eric Taylor in the drama series Friday Night Lights, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2011. He has starred in the films King Kong (2005), The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Super 8 (2011), Argo (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Carol (2015), and Manchester by the Sea (2016). In 2015, he began starring on Netflix’s drama series Bloodline, for which he received his fourth and fifth Primetime Emmy Award nominations.