Over the last few years or so there has been a resurgence of the British World War II slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”. It is a design that was inspired by the world war II poster commissioned by King George VI in 1939. This poster was intended as a morale booster in the event of expected bombing attacks or poisonous gas raids at the outbreak of the war. Over 2,500,000 posters were printed but only a few were actually issued in a limited release and none for the general public. The posters were largely unknown and remained forgotten until a copy of the poster was found in Northern England around the year 2,000. Since the copyrights expire on government produced artistic products after 50 years the image and slogan are now in the public domain. The owners of the book store that initially “rediscovered” the poster have sold over 40, 000 copies since 2001.
It’s interesting to note that this poster was to be the third in a series of three posters that included the slogans “Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might!” and “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will bring us Victory!” The first two were distributed across the UK to motivate and hearten the British people.
Today people see it as a symbol of the strength of the British people during what was arguably their darkest and finest hour and harkens to the resiliency we are all capable of.
There has also been, because of the popularity of the original poster, a whole cottage industry built around these slogans. Especially the “Keep Calm” variation. Anything from clothing to dinnerware, posters, lunch boxes, you name it this slogan or a variation of it can be found.
I don’t think this is exactly what King George VI had in mind when suggesting this for a poster. Or for that matter did the Ministry of Information bureaucrats even dream of what they would unleash some 65 years later. But the simplicity of these posters speaks to what is in all of us and the times we find ourselves in. Whether it’s the terrorists who want us dead or the bureaucrats who want everything we have fought and struggled for in this life,we must maintain our diligence, our fight. We must “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
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