Great-grandson Randolph Churchill follows Sir Winston’s footsteps on speaking tour of Canada.
By Licia Corbella
THE CALGARY HERALD, 4 May 2012—”In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.” — Sir Winston Churchill
From any other mortal, that quote would sound like a boast, but coming from the mouth and pen of arguably the greatest orator and leader of the 20th century it is, indeed, a wholesome and humble statement.
Many historians over the decades would agree that Churchill’s words — contained in the 50 books, 10,000 articles, and dozens upon dozens of moving speeches he wrote and delivered — were more than just wholesome, they were transformational, if not the very salvation of the free world at its most dangerous time.
On Tuesday, the British wartime prime minister’s great-grandson, Randolph Churchill III, will speak to the 46th annual banquet of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary, which was established to remember one of history’s greatest people, but also to nurture high school students to aspire to great oratory and leadership themselves.
Randolph, 47, who was born two days before his great-grandfather’s death on Jan. 24, 1965, says he will discuss the importance of inspirational leadership in a speech titled: Churchill, European Unity and Economic Turmoil, at the Ranchmen’s Club, 710 13th Avenue S.W.
Reached at his home in Kent, England, Randolph says Sir Winston grew to love Canada during his nine visits here. While on a trip in 1929 — long before he became prime minister — Churchill spoke “to hugely packed out audiences and he always had the warmest welcome.
“My great-grandfather loved Canada and in a letter he wrote to his wife, Clementine, he said, if he didn’t get re-elected back into Parliament, he was tempted to take them all to live in Canada, that’s how much he loved it.”
When Sir Winston spoke before Canada’s Parliament on Dec. 30, 1941, during the midst of the Second World War, he said: “We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.” Sir Winston was mindful of the toughness of Canadians in general, the bravery and fierceness of Canadian soldiers and that Canada was the first country to join England in its fight against the Nazis and certain tyranny.
Randolph, a former naval lieutenant and the current investment director with Rathbones, a British investment bank, says Sir Winston has words of wisdom that should be heeded today in Europe, which is struggling under massive debt.
There is, of course, Sir Winston’s famous quote about taxes: “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” But also the more obscure one about borrowing: “When you borrow money from another country for the sacred purpose of national rehabilitation, it is wrong to squander it upon indulgence.”
Randolph thinks it’s inevitable that some countries within the European Union will eventually decide to no longer use the euro as their currency, particularly countries like Greece and Spain — suffering under 25 per cent unemployment and massive public debt —to devalue their currency, effectively defaulting on their debts and getting people back to work.
While able to talk at length and in great detail about what he believes must be done to help solve Europe’s financial woes, it’s obvious that Randolph is most animated when speaking about his most famous relative. Randolph is a trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and of the Churchill Archives Centre. He travels extensively to attend events and give speeches that honour his great-grandfather.
How does it feel to carry the Churchill name?
“It’s a very proud thing, but the really important thing is to remember what that generation — that sacrificed so much — did. It’s also vital to remember that through Sir Winston’s oratory, he was able to give backbone to not only the people of Britain, but the people of the world, to bring them through the worst trials and tribulations the world has known.”
And that is exactly the mandate of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary. To “promote students’ facility in the use of the spoken and written word emphasizing oratorical and communication skills . . . and to commemorate his leadership and achievement.”
For decades now, the society has sponsored debates centred around an issue that Churchill himself was involved with in his life.
The winners of these high-school debates attend the black-tie event and are awarded with trophies, two of which were provided by the Herald decades ago. There have been some high-profile winners over the years too, including Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi.
In November, various teams from a variety of schools argued either for or against the Aliens Act Bill of 1905, which sought to limit Jewish immigration into the U.K, something that Churchill strongly objected to. The winners of the debate in the senior-high beginner category and the winner of the Calgary Herald Shield trophy are Paul Hong and Conrad Lowe from William Aberhart High School. Silver went to Balaji Sankaranarayanan and Arjun Nair from Webber Academy, and bronze went to Jeremy Foxcroft and Sergio Montanez from Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School. The top speaker and winner of the Principal’s Cup went to Nair.
In the senior-high advanced category, the winners of the Calgary Herald trophy are Vasanth Ranganathan and Shahriar Shams-Ansari from, appropriately, Sir Winston Churchill High School (the second year in a row that this duo has won this trophy).
Karim Kurji and Colin Hill, also from Churchill High, took the silver and Kyler Chittick and Anita Chaudhry from William Aberhart won the bronze medal. The top speaker and winner of the Bredin Cup is Ranganathan, who also won last year.
Robert Thompson, president of the Churchill Society and a partner with Bennett Jones law firm, said he was very impressed with the debates among the nine high schools that participated.
“Most of the high-school debaters were themselves from families of immigrants. Each brought passion to the side of the argument to which he or she was assigned and did so with great skill and with a mastery of the English language that would have made Sir Winston very proud,” said Thompson.
Randolph says he is pleased that his great grandfather’s legacy lives on.
“A lot of Canadian blood was spilled on the battlefields of Europe, sadly, and our duty is to make sure it wasn’t in vain. We must never take our rights and privileges for granted and, as the generation that experienced the Second World War is growing fainter, it’s the duty of us lot now to not forget what every person gave up in those times to make sure we can live the way we want to live — in freedom.”
A few tickets for Tuesday’s event — which is the best gala dinner in Calgary every year — are still available and can be purchased by visiting winstonchurchillab.org. It is indeed a “wholesome diet.”
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