National Winston Churchill Day 2016

National Winston Churchill Day 2016

Nation­al Day of Cel­e­bra­tion: April 9th?

Pub­lished 9 April 2016 by the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project

national churchill day
The White House, 9 April 1963. L-R: act­ing Sec­re­tary of State George Ball, Lady and Ambas­sador Sir David Orms­by Gore, Win­ston Churchill (grand­son), the President’s Naval Aide Tazewell Shep­ard, Pres­i­dent Kennedy, Ran­dolph S. Churchill. Pho­to by Cecil Stoughton.

Why does the Unit­ed States des­ig­nate April 9th as Nation­al Churchill Day? Why not, for exam­ple, May 10th? That was the day in 1940 when, with lib­er­ty in retreat, he became Britain’s prime min­is­ter, sure that he knew a good deal about it all, cer­tain he would not fail, impa­tient for the morning….

But April 9th has a cer­tain nation­al sig­nif­i­cance for Amer­i­cans. That was the day, in 1963, when Pres­i­dent Kennedy pro­claimed Sir Win­ston an hon­orary cit­i­zen of the Unit­ed States.

He was too infirm to attend in per­son. But it is always worth recall­ing what he thought about it all, in a let­ter to the Pres­i­dent, read by his son Ran­dolph:

In this cen­tu­ry of storm and tragedy, I con­tem­plate with high sat­is­fac­tion the con­stant fac­tor of the inter­wo­ven and upward progress of our peo­ples. Our com­rade­ship and our broth­er­hood in war were unex­am­pled. We stood togeth­er, and because of that fact the free world now stands.

Nor has our part­ner­ship any exclu­sive nature: the Atlantic com­mu­ni­ty is a dream that can well be ful­filled to the detri­ment of none and to the endur­ing ben­e­fit and hon­our of the great democracies.

Of course Churchill believed that “noth­ing sur­pass­es 1940.” Few would gain­say him.

In 1940 he gave a coun­try, out­num­bered and out­gunned, alone except for its Empire-Com­mon­wealth, the courage to stand the “faith­ful guardians of truth and justice”—until “those who were hith­er­to half blind were half ready.”

That year proved like­wise that one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence. As Charles Krautham­mer observed: “Only Churchill car­ries that absolute­ly required cri­te­ri­on: indis­pens­abil­i­ty. With­out Churchill the world today would be unrecognizable—dark, impov­er­ished, tortured.”

And so we won. West­ern civ­i­liza­tion was saved. Yet it was not, William F. Buck­ley Jr. argued, “the sig­nif­i­cance of that vic­to­ry, mighty and glo­ri­ous though it was, that caus­es the name of Churchill to make the blood run a lit­tle faster….It is the roar that we hear, when we pro­nounce his name….

It is sim­ply mis­tak­en that bat­tles are nec­es­sar­i­ly more impor­tant than the words that sum­mon men to arms, or who remem­ber the call to arms. The bat­tle of Agin­court was long for­got­ten as a geopo­lit­i­cal event, but the words of Hen­ry V, with Shake­speare to recall them, are imper­ish­able in the mind, even as which side won the bat­tle of Get­tys­burg will dim from the mem­o­ry of those who will nev­er for­get the words spo­ken about that bat­tle by Abra­ham Lin­coln….The genius of Churchill was his union of affini­ties of the heart and of the mind, the total fusion of ani­mal and spir­i­tu­al energy.

A National Resource

Hills­dale Col­lege seeks to refract that ener­gy with two unique teach­ing tools: Win­ston S. Churchill and The Churchill Doc­u­ments, com­pris­ing the offi­cial biog­ra­phy and the Churchill Papers of Sir Mar­tin Gilbert, his biog­ra­ph­er for forty years.

As we pro­duce each new doc­u­ment volume—this year reach­ing the eve of D-Day—we are struck by the sheer vol­ume and vari­ety of the sub­jects Churchill grap­pled with: ene­mies and allies; allo­ca­tion of per­son­nel and equip­ment between com­pet­ing the­aters of war; urgent plead­ing from states­men and gen­er­als, often demand­ing the impos­si­ble; cab­i­net dia­logue and argu­ment; sum­mit meet­ings; Par­lia­men­tary busi­ness; pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tions; appoint­ments; post­war planning—on and on for 2500 pages.

Nowhere is there so thor­ough a record of one statesman’s deci­sion­mak­ing; nowhere were the deci­sions so con­se­quen­tial. Even now, in the dig­i­tal age, Churchill’s work­load would tax sev­er­al capa­ble peo­ple. His out­put was extra­or­di­nary, his rea­son­ing under­stand­able, com­mu­ni­ca­tions thought­ful, his scope glob­al. And there was this rare qual­i­ty: It was sim­ply impos­si­ble for Win­ston Churchill to write a bor­ing sentence.

Today, as in 1963, we study Churchill because he stood for something—the prin­ci­ple that “the peo­ple own the gov­ern­ment, and not the gov­ern­ment the peo­ple.” He exem­pli­fied cer­tain crit­i­cal human pos­si­bil­i­ties that are always worth bring­ing to the atten­tion of thought­ful peo­ple. In 1943 he spoke at Har­vard of our heritage:

Law, lan­guage, literature—these are con­sid­er­able fac­tors. Com­mon con­cep­tions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, espe­cial­ly to the weak and poor, a stern sen­ti­ment of impar­tial jus­tice, and above all the love of per­son­al free­dom, or as Kipling put it: “Leave to live by no man’s leave under­neath the law”—these are com­mon con­cep­tions on both sides of the ocean among the Eng­lish-speak­ing peoples.

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