The thirty-ninth International Churchill Conference took place last month from 6 to 8 October at the National World War I Museum and Memorial of the United States in Kansas City and at America’s National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton. Both Missouri venues are rich in Churchill connections.
The actions of Russia dominated this year’s presentations. On the first full day of the conference, Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, an expatriate and staunch critic of the present Russian government, delivered the Enid and R. Crosby Kemper Lecture in the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury on the campus of Westminster College. The London church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, was destroyed in the Second World War during the Blitz and painstakingly rebuilt in the very place where Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946. A remnant of the Berlin Wall, sculpted by Churchill’s granddaughter Edwina Sandys, who was in attendance, now further enhances the site.
In Kansas City, author Candice Millard served as master of ceremonies for the second full day of the conference. Tim Bouverie, author of a critical study of the appeasement policies pursued by the West before 1939, delivered this year’s Stephen and Jane Poss Distinguished Churchill Lecture. Bouverie spoke about Churchill’s stance on Appeasement and the Lessons of History. Professor Sean McMeekin spoke about “Churchill and Stalin at War” and showed the great lengths to which Churchill went in order to keep Russia in the war against Germany. Dr. Charlie Laderman discussed “Hitler’s Gamble,” explaining the reasons for Germany’s declaration of war on the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and why this led to Churchill “sleeping the sleep of the saved and the thankful.”
The keynote speech delivered by Professor Angela Stent of Georgetown University, a recognized authority on contemporary Russian foreign policy, continued the Russian theme. Prof. Stent spoke about the actions of the Russian government in 2022, how they are rooted in the past, and how they may unfold in the future.
On the lighter side, Chartwell Property Curator Katherine Carter spoke about Churchill portraits in war and peace, asking the question “Cherub or Bulldog?” Actor Christian McKay discussed his personal experience portraying the wartime friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in film and television. McKay previously portrayed Churchill’s son-in-law Christopher Soames in “Churchill’s Secret.” He recently finished filming a multi-part docudrama in which he plays Franklin Roosevelt over the course of much of FDR’s adult life.
Enhancing this year’s conference, as they did last year, were several members of The Queen’s Royal Hussars, whose presence was generously sponsored by Ron and Eleanor Luke. The officers of the Hussars attended all of the events and distinguished themselves in their mess dress with scarlet tunics at the concluding night’s Gala Dinner. We look forward to seeing them again at next year’s conference in Edinburgh, Scotland October 5–7.
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