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John Plumpton, Past President of The Churchill Centre, Toasts WSC in Charleston

See all of the photos from the 27th International Churchill Conference here.
By John Plumpton
Churchill Conference, Charleston
March 2011

In 1970 a famous French historian and philosopher by the name of Michel Foucault wrote a seminal essay entitled: “What is an Author?”

In it he introduces the concept of “author function.”

Author function argues that the author is inextricably tied to the text which cannot stand alone without reference to that author.

The set of beliefs and assumptions in the text are forever associated with the author who presented them in a memorable way.

For example, there are many books about the poor in Victorian England but one cannot imagine the story of Oliver Twist without reference to Charles Dickens.

However, most ‘author functions’ die with the author or with his or her generation.

But a few, a VERY few, live on and enter the language as immortal metaphors for the author’s beliefs and assumptions.

Think of Freud, Machiavelli, or Marx.

We meet here this weekend to study and honour a person whose name has become the newest entry on the list of immortal ‘author functions’.

Just as our contemporaries are in general agreement on the meaning of Freudian, Machiavellian, or Marxist – so there has developed a general consensus on the meaning of the word ‘Churchillian’.

Included in that consensus are these words of the author himself:

In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Goodwill

We have seen much of War, Defeat, Victory, and Peace since Winston Churchill was with us and they continue to this very day when we consider the Middle East, the Financial Crisis and Japan.

To many our days are dark and our future darker but they will brighten if we meet the challenges as Churchill presented it to the boys of Harrow School on October 29, 1941.

Those words are integral to the author function of Churchillian:

“Do not let us speak of darker days; let us rather speak of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please be upstanding and join me in a toast to the creator of the author function: ‘Churchillian’ – Sir Winston Churchill.

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