Many people today think of the “V” sign as meaning Peace, but in reality, the “V” sign used today was actually hijacked. The original “V” sign meant Victory, and it was originally presented as such by Winston Spencer-Churchill at a time when Britain is at one of its lowest points in World War II. Churchill is well known as one of the greatest motivators and speech makers of his time. On July 19, 1941, he launched the “V for Victory” campaign across Europe by telling those in Europe under Nazi control to use the letter “V” (for Victory) at every chance they got in speaking and writing. Churchill urged them to write a capital letter “V” to signify “V” for Victory. This was designed to let the Germans know they still had spirit and believed they would overcome Nazi Rule. The morale of the people was so important and this low point in history. When people give up hope, wars are lost…even before the battles are lost.

In this campaign, Churchill first gave a speech over the radio to tell the people of his plan. Immediately following his speech, the letter “V” began to appear everywhere. It was painted on walls, tapped out in Morse code on shop counters with knuckles or beer glasses or pencil stubs. It quickly became a rallying call across Europe that there was still hope. Many people weren’t aware, but this is also why Churchill’s most famous pictures from World War II always featured him giving the “V” for Victory Sign. He was continuously telling the people not to give up. That all was not lost, and Victory would still be theirs. We all know the “V” sign. Of course, it was made using the index and middle fingers, raised and parted to make a “V” shape while the other fingers are clenched.

These days, it can mean a number of things, and not all are good. When it is displayed with the palm inward toward the signer, it can be an offensive gesture in some Commonwealth nations (similar to showing the middle finger). That usage dates back to at least 1900. When it is given with the palm outward, it is to be read as a victory sign (“V for Victory”). This usage was first introduced in January 1941 as part of a campaign by the Allies of World War II and made more widely known by Churchill the following July. As most of us know, during the Vietnam War, in the 1960s, the “V sign” with palm outward was widely adopted by the counterculture as a symbol of peace. These days, that is the most commonly used meaning and is commonly called the “peace sign.” Of course, most of us also know that it is used for fun in photographs, especially in East Asia and the United States, where the gesture is also associated with cuteness…the “rabbit ears.” That one is one I have never really figured out. Not what it is, but why people think it’s so funny. Oh well…to each his own.

I have always known that I was stubborn, and “bull headed” and if you ask my sisters, they will very much agree with me on that fact, but I seriously doubt if they would ever call me stubborn if I were compared to President Theodore Roosevelt. I don’t think many people are as stubborn as Roosevelt was. Roosevelt didn’t run for his initial term in office, but rather became president of the United States because William McKinley was assassinated while Roosevelt was serving as vice president. He did run for and win a second term in the election of 1904, during which he promised not to run for a third term thereafter. A man of his word to a point, Roosevelt stuck to that promise through the 1908 election, but then he decided to run for President again in 1912, first losing the Republican primary to the incumbent William Taft and then running at the head of a brand-new party, the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party. It is a strange name for a political party, but I think it might have been appropriate for Roosevelt.

When Roosevelt decided to run for president again in 1912, a saloon owner named John Schrank became obsessed with him, and after having a nightmare that convinced Schrank that Roosevelt was responsible for McKinley’s assassination. That fueled his obsession, and on October 14, 1912, he walked up to Roosevelt as he exited a Milwaukee hotel on route to a campaign event and fired a .38-caliber revolver right into his chest. For most people, this would be the end of the story, but this is where Roosevelt really earned the name attached to the political party of which he was a member.

Unfortunately, Schrank was not a bad shot, and the bullet hit its mark. Fortunately, the path of the bullet was not an easy one. After passing through Roosevelt’s glasses case and 50 pages worth of notes in his breast pocket, which slowed it down considerably the bullet hit Roosevelt’s chest. The items in its way likely slowed the bullet enough to save Roosevelt’s life. Then, in typical “bull headed” fashion, the former president coughed into his hands to check for blood, and upon finding none, continued on to the Milwaukee Auditorium, where he delivered an 84-minute speech that began with the following lines, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately, I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”

The bullet stayed lodged in his ribs throughout the rest of his unsuccessful campaign, and until his passing in 1919. While Roosevelt lost his race, his determination did show the kind of fortitude it takes to be president of this country. Being the leader of the free world, is not something that can be handled easily. The President of the United States must be an anointed position, and it is not one that just anyone can handle. In many ways, the best presidents are a type of “bull moose.” They have to be to take the pounding they have to take, and then keep coming back for more.

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