The Winston Churchill Society of Michigan Meets on September 19, 2012 in Ann Arbor.
By Dick Marsh and Bob Pettengill
The Winston Churchill Society of Michigan held its semi-annual meeting on September 19, 2012 at the Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The guest speaker was Philip White author of “Our Supreme Task – How Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance”. Mr. White is a writer, a guest lecturer at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a regular contributor to the Historical Society publications. Originally from England he now lives in Olathe, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.
Michigan Society President Dick Marsh opened the meeting by telling the group about his recent trip to England sandwiched between the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations and the Olympics. One of Dick’s activities was to seek out each of the 22 London residences of Winston Churchill, four of which were official government residences. Of the 18 private residences, including those of Winston’s parents, 14 of the original buildings are still in existence. Most of them have since been converted into flats or offices. Only 3 of the 14 had historical plaques noting Winston’s residence. Of particular amusement was 105 Mount Street, where Winston lived from 1900-1905 and which now houses a cigar store.
Following dinner Philip White discussed his book. One of his main points is that the Fulton speech afforded Churchill the platform he needed to address unfinished business. After being voted out of office the previous July – the “blessing” that, to Churchill, “was very well disguised” – and being excluded from the final days at the Potsdam Conference with Stalin and Truman (only 12 weeks in office) deprived him – and the world – of his experience and deep perspective. The world, certainly the United States and Great Britain, wanted to move on. And so once again it was only his words and writing that provided him an outlet for his prodigious insight. Churchill did not initiate the “cold war” with this speech, but he put a name to it and brought the world’s attention to what was already going on behind an “Iron Curtain.”
Philip White’s talk covered ground that many Churchillians know from the famous quote that starts “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste…” The role of Frank McClure, President of Westminster College, and the logistics involved in the visit were fascinating. It was an entertaining and educational talk which included a few of Churchill’s famous lines with a passable imitation of the famous voice.
Mr. White will be a participant in the International Churchill Conference in Toronto. His blog can be found here.
Dick Marsh closed the meeting by displaying his press copy of the Fulton speech and a January 1921 letter Winston wrote to his cousin and sculptress Clare Sheridan following her trip to Moscow, which resulted in a flair of Churchill’s temper. The letter is an illustration of Churchill’s lifelong opposition to Soviet Communism. The letter included the sentence: “Anyhow it was almost impossible for me to bring myself to meet you fresh from the society of those whom I regard as fiendish criminals.” The “fiendish criminals” were Lenin and Trotsky whom she had sculpted while in Moscow.