A newly released document proves something many pundits have long suspected: World leaders prepare for every possibility — even the end of the world.
On Thursday, the British government revealed a script written for Queen Elizabeth II that was meant to be broadcast to the country if the Soviet Union and NATO went to war. In the full speech, the Queen acknowledges the severity of the situation with surprising candor, but urges Britons to keep a stiff upper lip and believe in their nation:
We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history. The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology.
But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.
In addition to the pep talk, the Queen informs her subjects that togetherness and mutual support are the keys to withstanding the red menace:
It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defense against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country’s will to survive cannot be broken.
My message to you therefore is simple. Help those who cannot help themselves, give comfort to the lonely and the homeless and let your family become the focus of hope and life to those who need it.
While the authors of Elizabeth’s speech may have favored a less aggressive tone, the same can’t be said of Margaret Thatcher’s writers. A parallel speech meant for the “Iron Lady” condemns Soviet aggression and vows a swift response, saying, “We wanted peace and strove to achieve it. We are the victims of an unprovoked attack and, with our allies, we will fight back.”
Luckily, neither the Queen nor the then-Prime Minister had to recite their planned remarks. Instead, both scripts enter the surprisingly crowded pantheon of tragic speeches that were never given. These include a speech by General Eisenhower announcing the failure of the D-Day landings, and an announcement by JFK that the US was invading Cuba to remove Russian nuclear weapons.
Perhaps the most poignant of this group was a speech written for Richard Nixon should Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have found themselves stranded on the moon.
“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace,” Nixon would have said. “These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.”
It’s interesting to read these various documents and think about the tragedies we so narrowly avoided. However, one hopes we never actually have to hear them read out loud.