Clearer Outlines of Courage: Words of Gratitude for “The King’s Speech”
Much to no one’s surprise, “The King’s Speech” recently won the Best Picture Award for 2010. I saw this movie with a girl friend (here’s to the girls’ night out!), and was so taken by its power and impact. As you likely know, “The King’s Speech” portrays the struggle of Britain’s King George VI to overcome his long-standing stammer, a speech difficulty in which one speaks with involuntary breaks and pauses and sometimes with spasmodic repetitions of syllables or sounds.
For days after seeing it, I kept thinking about the movie (and I don’t think this was solely due to the fact that the good-looking and talented Colin Firth played King George!). I even spent one of my planned few minutes by our neighborhood creek sitting in the parking lot instead of getting out and among the trees and sounds of the water, which are usually a huge draw for me. Instead, I stayed in the car thinking about the movie a bit and relishing the scenes that were still flashing across my mind:
The King stricken with embarrassment when asked to speak for the Royal Family at public events; or the King brought to tears when he realized just what would be required of him after he was unexpectedly and abruptly crowned; or him sharing with his speech therapist, after much hesitation, stifling and painful memories from his childhood; and finally, his prideful swagger as he walked out of the recording room after his first nearly stammer-less speech.
The movie vividly and honestly depicted the King’s struggles to move beyond what he had always been, a self-questioning and timid person with a stammer, and grow into what was possible for him to be, a confident and assertive leader who uses his voice as a key tool to bring people together. It was, in fact, necessary for him to evolve in this way to fulfill his role as newly crowned King just as Great Britain declared war against Hitler.
The call to re-emerge in one way or another is frequent in midlife. By then, our “old ways” are usually tired out and quite often very ineffective—except, perhaps, in keeping us stuck! These old ways no longer have the fuel of youthful denial, naivety, or perceived invulnerability to keep them alive.
By the end of the movie, I came to love the sound of the King’s voice, and perhaps it was the lingering sound of his voice that kept me from getting out of my car in the park. But even more than the sound, I appreciated his struggle with finding and using his voice quite simply because it was so visible. Most of us have the luxury of keeping our struggles reasonably hidden or of exposing them by choice and in our own timing. But the King did not have this choice, and his outer, involuntary manifestation of his inner vulnerability was at once heart breaking and inspiring.
And for this visible portrayal of vulnerability, I am grateful. To the real King George VI who lived this excruciating journey; to the movie producers who chose to show this vulnerability in its rawness; and to the power of the actors whose skill and talent inhabited and brought to life the characters.
I am grateful for how the movie highlighted with clearer outlines the courage it takes to step beyond the boundaries that have been knowingly and unknowingly set for us by ourselves and others, and how those outlines may give a boost to myself and others who are in our own midlife process of becoming more than we have been in the past.