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Churchill’s Legacy – Why It Still Matters

Kristin Sarli - Thursday October 20, 2016 11:47

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On the night of the first US presidential debate, when the world listened to speeches intended to influence, inspire —and even annoy — Churchill’s Legacy: Two Speeches to Save the World was launched, celebrating one of the world’s greatest orators and the 70th anniversary of two of his most influential speeches: Churchill’s Iron Curtain and United States of Europe speeches.  When talks of this publication first began in 2015, however, no one could have quite foreseen its relevance to the unfolding global political landscape of 2016.

 

 

 

This timely book, written by Lord Watson, former Chairman of the English-Speaking Union, looks in depth at two key speeches Winston Churchill made in 1946 which cemented his influence in postwar politics to enable the restoration of Europe.  We are excited to welcome Lord Watson back to the Royal Oak stage next week for lectures in New York and Philadelphia.

Der britische Premierminister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), rechts, zusammen mit Edward Wood, erster Lord von Halifax, links, am Flughafen in Washington D.C.. Nach einem Besuch beim amerikanischen Praesidenten Harry S. Truman, macht sich Churchill am 16. Februar 1946 wieder auf den Weg nach Florida. (KEYSTONE/IBA-ARCHIV/Str)

Der britische Premierminister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), rechts, zusammen mit Edward Wood, erster Lord von Halifax, links, am Flughafen in Washington D.C.. Nach einem Besuch beim amerikanischen Praesidenten Harry S. Truman, macht sich Churchill am 16. Februar 1946 wieder auf den Weg nach Florida. (KEYSTONE/IBA-ARCHIV/Str)

The first speech addressed in the book is Churchill’s daring presentation in Fulton, Missouri, now known as the Iron Curtain speech. Churchill warned Americans of the threat posed by Russia, called for an Anglo-American alliance based on shared values, and urged Americans to recognize their debt to Britain for opposing Hitler in 1940, which became integral to the emergence of both NATO and the Marshall Plan.

The former Prime Minister of Great Britain and opposition leader, Winston Churchill, holds a speech on September 19, 1946, at the crowded Muensterhof in Zurich, Switzerland. (KEYSTONE/PHOTOPRESS-ARCHIV/Str)

The former Prime Minister of Great Britain and opposition leader, Winston Churchill, holds a speech on September 19, 1946, at the crowded Muensterhof in Zurich, Switzerland. (KEYSTONE/PHOTOPRESS-ARCHIV/Str)

With the UK in mind, in the wake of the Brexit decision, we see how Churchill’s second speech that year, in Zurich, drew attention to the notion of unity over separation. Churchill boldly proposed a partnership between France and Germany in order to form a sort of ‘United States of Europe’. The hatred stirred up by the war had to be replaced by partnership in order for Europe to recover its economic vitality and regain its moral stature.

Author, Lord Watson, a natural and jovial raconteur, elaborates on the significance of these speeches, dropping in some brilliant anecdotes of his time researching the book and ‘getting closer to Churchill’ through contacts, family and friends of the man himself. But amidst the laughter his message was clear: Churchill’s speeches set out imperatives for today just as powerfully as when they were delivered 70 years ago, and they should not go unheeded. His purpose was to startle, provoke and inspire Americans and Europeans into building a new alliance capable of securing democracy.

In Churchill’s own words, “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” It is in this book that we so clearly see a blueprint for success through unity that should be used as a template in moving forwards.

Don’t miss Lord Watson’s lectures:

October 24, Philadelphia

October 26, New York City

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A version of this post first appeared in the bloomsbury reader on September 27, 2016