One of my best school friends lost his mother over the weekend because of the coronavirus.
Her mother, a charming lady who cooked fabulous lasagna for me, lived in a nursing home near the south coast of England and died without her family being able to see her during her final days.
Their last contact was via FaceTime, an incredibly valuable tool in these times of forced separation, but a horribly impersonal replacement for human contact and touch when a loved one dies.
Meanwhile, in another nursing home in south London, a second close friend is quarantined with her mother, also a charming lady, who has been fighting for her life against the virus for two weeks. A fight that she fortunately begins to show signs of victory.
In a hospital in north London, the husband of one of my Good Morning Britain co-presenters, Kate Garraway, is critically ill in an intensive care unit full of coronavirus patients.
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Queen Elizabeth II addressed the nation and the Commonwealth from Windsor Castle on Sunday
And in another London hospital, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a man I have known for 30 years, is now very sick with the virus.
So I feel that the coronavirus crisis is now hitting hard and personally, just like it is for millions of other people around the world.
These are extremely troubling times, and as the United States and the United Kingdom are now heading to their “high-end” virus hell over the next two weeks, much more loss and heartache will ensue. unfortunately, interspersed with flashes of hope and ecstatic joy from people surviving against all odds.
The last time the planet was engulfed in a global fight like this was during the Second World War of 1939-1945.
Then the British people were awakened and inspired to final victory by the formidable spirit and oratory of Sir Winston Churchill.
President Donald Trump speaks at a White House Coronavirus task force briefing on Sunday
But with our current Prime Minister unfortunately handicapped, and a series of clumsy government ministers having the combined comforting effect of lying on a bed of rusty nails, all eyes turned last night to a 93-year-old woman seated in a castle where she has self-isolated with her 98-year-old husband.
Queen Elizabeth II reigned in the United Kingdom for 68 years.
During all this time – the longest period served by a current ruler of any kind – she barely set foot on a royal footing and on four occasions she felt compelled to address the nation outside of her annual Christmas speech: at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991, after the death of Princess Diana and then of her mother in 1997 and 2002, and on the occasion of her diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for coronavirus
But it was his most important address, the one that came when everyone in Britain was deeply affected by a deadly virus that destroys lives as quickly as it destroys jobs and savings.
And in just five short minutes, Her Majesty delivered the greatest speech of her life.
He was eloquent, powerful, evocative and perfectly argued – thanking health workers for risking their lives to save ours, and the public for (largely) obeying government lock-in rules, but urging all of us to dig deep into our individual tanks of stoicism. the strength to bring us collectively through this endurance test.
“Together we are fighting this disease,” she said, “and I want to reassure you that if we stay united and resolute, we will overcome it. I hope that in the years to come, everyone can be proud of their response to this challenge. And those who will succeed us will say that the British of this generation were as strong as all. That the attributes of self-discipline, calm, cheerful resolve and sympathy still characterize this country. Pride of who we are is not part of our past, it defines our present and our future. “
Then it became personal.
The queen could have done so by saying that her own 71-year-old son and heir, Prince Charles, was infected with the virus, a worrying period for any mother given his age.
But she didn’t.
Instead, it reminded us of the time of World War II when thousands of young children were evacuated from British cities to the countryside, separated from their parents for their own safety.
She and her late sister Princess Margaret, both very young at the time, recorded a radio message to the children to offer them comfort and hope.
It was the Queen’s very first broadcast and it was also recorded at Windsor Castle, where she recorded the last.
In the photo above, the Queen and her late sister Princess Margaret recorded a radio message to the children to offer comfort and hope during the Second World War.
“Today again,” she said last night, “many will experience a painful feeling of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that this is the right thing to do. “
The Queen concluded with this rallying cry: “We should be reassured that, while we still have to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we’ll see each other again.’
I felt a tear in my eye coming up when I heard these words, and I am sure I was not alone when social media instantly exploded with emotional praise.
In her unique and influential way, the Queen made the British people feel better, cheered us up and gave us hope for the future.
“A wonderful speech from a beautiful woman,” I tweeted at the end of the speech. “Thank you, Your Majesty, it was your most beautiful moment as a monarch. “
And I thought so.
But not everyone felt the same.
“Dude, I don’t understand! Came an instant sneaky response from a London-based American actress named Molly Mulshine.
“You are American,” I retorted. “You don’t have to” get it “. She is OUR Queen and tonight she spoke for each of us in Britain. And we love it for that. “
And if we, friends on both sides of the big pond, are going to equalize ourselves, then let me be brutally frank in return: the queen did more to comfort the British people in five minutes last night than the president Trump has made over 50 hours of contradictory, inaccurate, incendiary self-enlargement, significant addresses to the American people during this crisis.
Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t want to have the burden of trying to run a country during this pandemic over my worst enemy, let alone a friend like Trump with no experience of anything like that.
But that’s why people go into politics – to lead.
And Trump’s leadership has so far been woefully erratic and peculiarly lacking in the gravity, empathy, and calm and measured tone that all Americans are calling for right now – the kind that the impressive Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, posted daily.
Woman arrives by ambulance at Wyckoff Hospital in Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC, Sunday
From Trump’s shocking complacency in the first weeks of the crisis and his frequent statistical misrepresentations on everything from coronavirus testing to protective gear for health workers, to his constant false boasting about the way he handles things and unduly confident predictions that it will all be soon when there is no evidence that it will, it is frankly an unclassified masterclass on how not to be a warchief.
In fact, the more Trump speaks, the less comforting he is.
Things reached a climax yesterday when he was involved in a ridiculous press conference debacle in which he prevented the best American doctor, Dr Fauci, from telling reporters if the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine could be used to treat coronavirus patients – because he knew Fauci doesn’t think he should yet, and Trump wants to pump an unproven “miracle cure” to make himself look good.
It is absurd and very dangerous for a president to contradict his senior medical expert on something so serious.
Yet, it is sadly typical of Trump to try to make this whole crisis around him and to present himself as the hero of the hour even as America plunges into a catastrophic week of inevitable daily coronavirus deaths.
Compare and contrast his obsessed ramblings on the catwalk with the concise, precise, elegant and thoughtful words of Queen Elizabeth, a woman he never tires of saying how much he admires.
Sometimes less is more.
And the main job of a warchief, as Churchill and Queen Elizabeth have shown, is to instill in people a sense of national pride, purpose, responsibility, courage and determination – not a feeling of unforgiving chaos.
President Trump should watch the Queen’s speech as many times as necessary until he “understands” it.