WORDS FROM WINSTON CHURCHILL TO ILLUMINATE OUR DARKEST HOUR
We wanted to reach out on this solemn day commemorating one of the darkest hours in our country’s history, the assault on our nation’s Capitol one year ago today, with the words of Winston Churchill, who revered America’s Congress second only to Great Britain’s Parliament, and cherished America’s Constitution (though he did believe Britain’s Magna Carta was just a bit better).
Churchill famously addressed a Joint Session of Congress on December 26, 1941.
“Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives of the United States, I feel greatly honored that you should have thus invited me to enter the United States Senate Chamber and address the representatives of both branches of Congress. The fact that my American forebears have for so many generations played their part in the life of the United States, and that here I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life, which is already long and has not been entirely uneventful. I wish indeed that my mother, whose memory I cherish, across the vale of years, could have been here to see. By the way, I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own.”
This line brought down the house, with Churchill’s audience dissolving in appreciative laughter, as Churchill had intended. But he soon delivered a darker warning:
“Duty and prudence alike command first that the germ-centers of hatred and revenge should be constantly and vigilantly served and treated in good time, and that an adequate organization should be set up to make sure that the pestilence can be controlled at its earliest beginnings, before it spreads and rages throughout the entire earth.”
Churchill was, in fact, the only world leader to address Congress three times. He concluded his second Joint Session appearance on May 19, 1943 with these words:
“By singleness of purpose, by steadfastness of conduct, by tenacity and endurance, such as we have so far displayed, by these, and only by these, can we discharge our duty to the future of the world and to the destiny of man.”
Churchill’s final speech to Congress was delivered on January 17, 1952. Focusing largely on The Cold War, Churchill reiterated his belief that Democracy had to be vigorously defended:
“If I may say this, Members of Congress, be careful of all things… It is my belief that by accumulating deterrents of all kinds against aggression we shall, in fact, ward off the fearful catastrophe, the fears of which darken the life and mar the progress of all the peoples of the globe.”
The following year, in a speech delivered on March 27 at St. Stephen’s Hall, Westminster, in the presence of the new Queen Elizabeth, Churchill reflected:
“We must be very careful nowadays — I perhaps all the more because of my American forbears — in what we say about the American Constitution. I will therefore content myself with the observation that no better Constitution was ever better written in English… Both here and across the ocean, over the generations and the centuries the idea of the division of power has lain at the root of our development. We do not want to live under a system dominated either by one man or one theme.”
On April 9, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, by an act of Congress, proclaimed Winston Churchill an Honorary Citizen of the United States:
“WHEREAS Sir Winston Churchill, a son of America though a subject of Britain, has been throughout his life a firm and steadfast friend of the American people and the American nation; and WHEREAS he has freely offered his hand and his faith in days of adversity as well as triumph; and WHEREAS his bravery, charity and valor, both in war and in peace, have been a flame of inspiration in freedom’s darkest hour; and WHEREAS his life has shown that no adversary can overcome, and no feat can deter, free men in the defense of their freedom; and WHEREAS he has by his art as an historian and his judgment as a statesman made the past the servant of the future; NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN F. KENNEDY, President of the United States of America, under the authority contained in an Act of the 88th Congress, do hereby declare Sir Winston Churchill an honorary citizen of the United States of America.”