“Never, Never Give Up”

Published: July 23, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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“I will never give up. I will keep fighting till the end.” – Jim Kelly, honoree of the Jimmy V Award at the annual ESPY Awards.

Near the end of his career, Sir Winston Churchill – the most quoted individual along with Lincoln – was asked to address his old English boys school, Harrow.

Churchill stands to receive unanimous acclamation from the audience of young students. After the applause subsides, he delivers, what has become known as one of the most concise, yet inspiring speeches in history:

“Young men, never give up. Never give up! Never give up!! Never, never, never-never-never-never!”

The website, Preaching Today, however, offers the correct version of Churchill’s quote.

“According to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” the website says, “the speech was not delivered near the end of Churchill’s career (he died in 1965), but on October 29, 1941. And he wasn’t Sir Winston till 1953. … In addition, this familiar speech was not 29 words long, but rather two pages. The famous quote was neither at the beginning nor the end, but hidden away in a long paragraph recounting Great Britain’s progress during the first 10 months of World War II. … And what he really said was, ‘Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.’ “

(I prefer the original.)

Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s acceptance speech at the ESPY Awards struck a similar tone, if not comparable language.

“Kelly was honored,” Sports Illustrated writes (July 18), “with the Jimmy V Award at the ESPYs on Wednesday night and told the audience ‘to make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow.’

“The Hall of Fame quarterback is fighting oral cancer. He is 58 years old and has undergone several surgeries to fight the cancer, including a most recent surgery in June.

“The Jimmy V Award, which is in honor of [basketball coach] Jim Valvano is given to ‘a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination.’ ”

Here is part of Kelly’s speech from that night.

“When I look back in my life, I’ve always lived by the four Fs. The one I had, but I’ve changed it, is fun. I still have fun, but I put the one in there that means more to me than it ever has, is my faith. My faith in the good Lord that he has plans for my life. Through my son Hunter, we will make a difference.

“…My daughter Erin, every single time she walked in the hospital, not one time did she have a frown on her face. It was always ‘Daddy you look so good, you’re so cute.’ My daughter Camryn. So many times, she hugged me and I didn’t want to let her go. Even today when she hugs me, I don’t want to let her go. And, my wife Jill — you are my heart, you are my soul. You are my everything. I love you, Jill.

“My brothers, I have five brothers, Pat, Ed, Ray, Dan and Kevin. They’ve been through everything with me. The good times, the bad times. … I’ll tell you I wouldn’t be here today without my brothers. I love you guys. …

“To my Hunter’s Hope Families. There are 60 families in Buffalo, New York that their kids have the same disease as my son had. They’re trying to make a difference. I want to let them know I will be home tomorrow, me and my family, to go out there and make a difference.

“Finally, the fans, I came up with a saying ‘Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow.’  You don’t need to be a Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers to make a difference out there. Every single person can make a difference. You can be a normal person that gets up and goes to work, you can be a difference-maker and put a smile on people’s faces. I urge anybody out there, anybody that is suffering, somebody not having a good day, your mom, dad, grandparents, what you say to them, the smile you have on your face, that could be the difference in them making it to the next day.

“Always, always persevere. Like Jimmy V said, ‘never, never give up.’ ”


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