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2016 ConferenceFormer Secretary of State James A. Baker, III speaking to the 2016 Churchill Conference in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room
The 33rd International Churchill Conference took place on 27–29 October at the Mayflower Hotel, the US State Department, and the newly-opened National Churchill Library and Center (NCLC) at The George Washington University. More than 370 people attended including scholars, statesmen, students, journalists, and Churchillians from around the world. A conference highlight was the keynote speech by former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III following a dinner in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room at the State Department. All agreed that a new milestone had been reached in the history of the organization.

Early conference arrivals got to enjoy a rare privilege on Thursday, October 27th, when they toured historic Ford’s Theatre. Director Paul R. Tetreault led the group personally around the theatre and museum and even onto the stage itself. This is not part of the normal public tour and is never possible when there is a live set on the stage. From this venue Tetreault told the story of the events that took place on the night April 14, 1865 when President Lincoln was fatally shot. The group then proceeded across the street to the Petersen House to see the room in which the mortally stricken president expired the following morning.

On Thursday evening conference attendees gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel for the opening dinner. Randolph Churchill welcomed everyone on behalf of the Churchill family, and Kevin Jones of Bloomsbury Publishing spoke about the Churchill Archives for Schools project, which allows schools around the world to have free online access to the Churchill Archives. Entertainment was provided by the White House Band.

During dinner, ICS Chairman Laurence Geller made the annual presentation of awards. Rob Havers received the Emery Reves Award for his decade of leadership at the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri. Peter Clarke was named recipient of the Emery Reves Award for his book Mr. Churchill’s Profession,and the Somervell Award went to David Lough for his article in Finest Hour about “Lord Randolph’s Legacy.” Finally, a new award was presented for the first time. The Chartwell Award will be presented each year for a record of outstanding service to the International Churchill Societies. Christopher Hebb was recognized for his exemplary leadership of the Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of British Columbia.

Conference sessions formally opened on Friday, October 29th with C-SPAN broadcasting everything live from the Mayflower. Chairman Geller welcomed the audience and explained that The Churchill Centre would henceforth be known by its original name the International Churchill Society (ICS). He then introduced Michael F. Bishop, the new Executive Director of ICS and Director of the NCLC. This was followed by the first panel “Churchill and the Presidents” with Nigel Hamilton, Alonzo Hamby, and William Hitchcock discussing Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower respectively. Sir David Cannadine followed this panel with a complementary survey of Churchill’s relations with the British monarchs whom he served. Afterwards, during lunch, Sir David was presented with The Blenheim Award for both his record of scholarship and his support for the creation of the National Churchill Library and Center.

The first afternoon program maintained the high level set in the morning. New York Times bestselling author Candice Millard spoke about how Churchill achieved fame as a result of his exploits during the Boer War, the subject of her new book Hero of the Empire. Lord Watson of Richmond spoke about the two important speeches that Churchill made seventy years ago in Fulton, Missouri and Zurich, Switzerland. His book on this subject quickly sold out at the conference. Finally David Lough spoke about the various people throughout Churchill’s life who assisted him financially from his humble nanny to Wall Street power broker Bernard Baruch.

Friday evening guests were transported to the State Department where they enjoyed a spectacular view of Washington from the top-floor balcony. Inside they toured the spectacular and rarely-seen Diplomatic Reception Rooms before entering the State Dining Room. The British Ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch, proposed the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty the Queen, and Jennie Churchill proposed the toast to the memory of her great grandfather. Christopher Matthews introduced Secretary Baker, who received a standing ovation for his well-received speech. Finally Laurence Geller presented the Sir Winston S. Churchill Leadership Award to Steven Knapp, President of The George Washington University, for his work to make the National Churchill Library and Center a reality.

On the morning of Saturday, October 28th attendees gathered once more in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayflower to listen to a panel about “Churchill’s Great Contemporaries” with talks about Churchill’s working relationships with Sir John Anderson, W. L. Mackenzie King, and Lord Moran. Andrew Roberts then delivered one of his trademark original talks about “The Extraordinary Lachrymosity and Romantic Imagination of Sir Winston Churchill.” Finally, Christopher Sterling surveyed Churchill’s many visits to Washington, D. C. and his long association with the city.

On Saturday afternoon guests travelled to George Washington University to attend the Open House of the National Churchill Library and Center and to view the prime minister’s war-time appointment cards donated to the International Churchill Society by Steve Forbes. People also had the opportunity to hear the last speaker of the conference, Michael Makovsky, who talked about Churchill’s relationship with Chaim Weizmann.

Following on the smashing success of the 2015 conference in Britain, the 2016 gathering met the same high standard. At the close of this year’s events, program chairman David Freeman announced that in 2017 the International Churchill Society would be holding its conference for the very first time in New York City.

To watch the videos of this year’s conference presentations, please CLICK HERE.

PHOTOGRAPHS AVAILABLE: Pictures from the conference including the State Department dinner by Eddie Arrossi Photography are available for download and purchase. Please CLICK HERE.

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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.