The King Has Spoken

A look at the themes in "The King's Speech."

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Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter filming The King's Speech at Queen Street Mill Textile Museum
film still from "The King's Speech"
This weekend I finally made time to watch The King’s Speech. While the life of royalty may be far from what I could normally identify with, this film effectively drew me in—not as a spectator (as is often the case) but rather as an empathizer. Haven’t we all confronted great fears or stumbling blocks, perhaps about faltering in public, or maybe about something else we dared not let on about? At times it seems the evidence of our fear or weakness can remain hidden, at others, it does not. In the case of a leader with a speech impediment, it appears inescapable. But we wouldn’t need to live such a public life to understand what that might be like.

I am an educator. It’s my job to speak in front of people, and I enjoy it, so that particular fear doesn’t reach me very often… but I certainly do get apprehensive when my digestive system is uncooperative and I have to get up in front of a class, or make a trip with uncertainty about restroom availability. At times it requires a fair amount of courage just to take my crazy prednisone pills in the morning. Some patients loathe their infusion treatments or colonoscopy appointments; others fear the mere concept of venturing out.

This is a concept you don’t have to be chronically ill to identify with, either. Most everybody has something they confront this way. Some are quite common, others more peculiar. Whether rooted in anxiety, disability, difficulty, or the perception thereof, we all have mortal fears about humiliation, letting others down, or something completely different. In a king overcoming a stammering tongue while entering a war, we see the anguish quite clearly. For some of us it is not so apparent.

But the film highlights another key component that can be equally hidden in our own lives. The king’s wife and children, his mentor, his colleagues, and his entire nation were pulling for him. In each awkward silence we feel their thoughts, taut with eager hope for him to persevere, to overcome, to succeed. With that quiet support beneath him, and some grit of his own, he ultimately triumphs.

We don’t have to carry our burdens alone. We can call on others for support. With that help we can make those steps, or even leaps, into the uncomfortable or unknown, and we can succeed. We can achieve and enjoy those victories, however small or large or incremental they may be. And, as the king is also clearly mindful about, we can carry great appreciation for the assistance we get along the way.

But it doesn’t stop there... life goes on. New challenges await us. The closing line of the film steers us forward with one final word. Simultaneously an acknowledgement, a salutation, and a directive, the king says, “Onwards.”

image above courtesy of The Lancashire County Council, CC BY 2.0

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Tags: Advocacy (Making a Difference) , Caretakers , Coping tools

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.

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