By Judy Kambestad
27th International Churchill Conference, Charleston, South Carolina
The conference, “Churchill in the News” was split between the Francis Marion Hotel for dinners and the College of Charleston for sessions. The 210 registrants walked 2-1/2 blocks through campus on brick walkways between tall trees hanging with Spanish moss, edged with azaleas and dogwood, to the Stern Student Center ballroom on the 4th floor. Three fulltime college students and twenty-two academics attended. Chapter presidents met during Friday’s lunchtime. Saturday the academics met for a round table discussion over lunch with Professor James Muller, TCC’s Chairman of Academics Advisors. Fifty-eight people took the pre-conference tour of Hobcaw Barony, Bernard Baruch’s estate where Churchill was a guest. Others took the Middleton Plantation tour or the Charleston walking tour on Sunday after the conference. The City of Charleston with its history, its gardens, pedicabs, and brick walkways was warm and charming.
Going into a conference as the conference Manager, one hopes and prays it will be well received. Never before have thank-you messages from the speakers arrived before pen has been put to paper to write their thank you letters! Here are a few:
“Thank you for delivering a fine group of interested conference participants to Hobcaw Barony today . . . what a gift from you to Hobcaw Barony. Everything (ran) smooth as glass . . despite forest fires and highway closures. As Judy predicted, the group drank lots of hot coffee and bought lots of books! I so appreciate having a copy of the conference announcement for our planning, the wonderful program with the Baruch-Churchill-South Carolina connection described, and the gift of the Churchill art book. All on top of a lovely day spent with people from all over the world with similar interests as ours!”
Lee G. Brockington
“Thanks for including us, for your generous hospitality . . and for the conference itself. The conference was very well run, you had some dynamite sessions, and it seemed to me everyone really responded. . .”
Director, Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections. University of South Carolina Libraries
“What a tremendous success the Charleston Conference was: very many Congratulations. The numbers attending, the quality of the speakers, the jollity of the social events, the grandeur of the closing banquet, the sheer efficiency: all made for a spectacular occasion. Susan and I hugely enjoyed it.”
“I had a lovely time at the conference, which was a brilliant success . . ” Lynne Olson
“Many congratulations on a brilliant conference. . .” Celia Sandys
Most of the Churchill presentations will be published in Finest Hour over the next few issues so this report is compiled from the Evaluations.
Chris Matthews’ Churchill Hardball Panel was the hit of the conference. “Having Chris moderate . . made it a really relevant session to today’s world & political climate. . It was the high for me.”
“Wow”. And, “Chris was happily balanced for a change”.
How a conference is received is determined by what each attendee brings to the conference. One commented that TCC is nonpolitical and comments on today’s politics (Obama) should not be allowed whereas another evaluator wanted more relationship to today’s politics and world affairs. Some liked having a speaker on Charleston to open the conference, followed by the University of South Carolina speakers on their Churchill collection and making of the Movietone newsreels, a few wanted only speakers on Churchill.
Friday’s dinner (shrimp and grits paired with a small filet mignon) went from ‘Excellent’ to ‘food not so good – must be our taste buds’. Saturday’s dinner of prime rib fared better.
Most marked ‘good’ for the cost of the conference, some ‘too pricey’ or ‘too costly’. (Note: This conference was $300 less per person than San Francisco for the sessions, minus the dinners.) The hotel ranged in the ‘good’ to ‘fair’ category but with compliments for the staff. Some commented on the audio problems in the Stern Ballroom and at Saturday night’s dinner, “the high quality of the spoken word was not matched by its sound projection”. Others enjoyed the walk to the sessions through the College of Charleston campus.
All rated Registration ‘Excellent’ (Mary Paxson). “Great innovation: The pocket guide.” (Dan Myers). A number commented more time was needed for Q&A.
The speakers were 90% ‘Excellent’ and ‘Good’ with ‘Excellent’ far outnumbering the ‘Good’. Comments included “great contemporary commentary on Churchill” (Roberts); “we should never have a conference without Allen (Packwood)”; “how many times can I circle Excellent”? (Kimball); “Loved the Southern affect “(Stukes); and after Allen Packwood’s presentation On to London was the comment “he should be a salesman”. “Great to see what is ahead'” (Lee Pollock).
“Great stories” (Reid). Lynne Olson and Celia Sandys both received excellent marks.
Summing up was this from a frist time attendee, “Conference exceeded all expectations”. And finally, “I have attended a number of conferences. I have never enjoyed one as much as this one. Very well planned.”
It takes a team to put together a conference. We wish to personally thank all those who made this one a great success.
See you in London!
Craig Horn and Ken Childs