July 31, 2013

Finest Hour 122, Spring 2004

Page 05

The 2003 International Churchill Conference in Bermuda this past November was splendid from every angle. The weather was beautiful. The Bermudians, from hotel staff to Governor and Prime Minister, made us feel warmly welcomed and appreciated. The attendees were most generous in praising the high quality of the panel discussions, and the panelists themselves. Many also had quite positive words for The Churchill Centre, its executive director, its new website, Finest Hour (always atop the hit parade) and other Centre programs.

We were fortunate to have Lady Soames with us throughout the Conference; and without question, her indefatigable participation in all—and I mean all—conference functions ensured their success. From the opening night receiving line at the Board of Governors reception to the final good night at our closing banquet, she was enthusiastically engaged, and in the process redefined the meaning of “Patron.”

Over the years many of us have been honored and excited to have met and conversed with our Patron, who for her part has dealt adroitly with a variety of people and situations. But until November 8th, none of us realized her adeptness at impromptu pantomime.

At the Mid Ocean Club luncheon, scene of her father’s “summit” fifty years before, she walked to the lectern to present a copy of her father’s painting, “View of Chartwell,” to the Club’s President, Michael Dunkley MR Alas, she was informed that the gift remained miles away at the Conference’s hotel. Without missing a beat, she held up the phantom painting, outlined its contours with accurate and clear flourishes, described it, identified a few specific features, and handed the phantom image over to a somewhat perplexed Mr. Dunkley. Happily he recovered in time to thank her pleasantly and then, grasping the spirit of the moment, placed it on a phantom easel!

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It must not be forgotten that this elegant conference was conceived, organized, managed and conducted, mostly long-distance, almost entirely by volunteers. Led by co-chairmen David Boler and Randy Barber, conference manager Judy Kambestad and education programs chairman John Plumpton, a host of Churchill Centre members pitched in to do the glamorless, unappreciated little things that must be done well if any conference is to succeed. They gave up their free time, shopping, swimming and sightseeing to attend to the many and varied needs of over 200 attendees. Too numerous to list here (but see page 22), they know who they are, and I and the other Governors wish to emphasize how much we appreciate their contributions.

I wish to note another memorable vignette: Solveig Barber’s beautiful singing of four national anthems and the Bermuda Song. Her smooth, effortless and artistically elegant deliveries, one in French, masked the hours of rehearsal necessary to produce such a wonderful result. Randy, please continue to keep Solveig happy. We would be poorer without her.

We all should be pleased with the positive response to the conference from Bermudians and Centre members alike. Press coverage was excellent. Marlane McGarry did a highly professional job as public relations manager. Interest in Churchill soared. In fact, concrete plans are under way to establish a Churchill Centre Bermuda affiliate to introduce many more young Bermudians to Winston Churchill. Volunteers have already come forth. And Churchill Centre members who attended from afar were energized by what they experienced. Upon my return, I received e-mails and telephone calls volunteering to do more for the Centre and its programs, financially and otherwise.

This highly successful conference will provide the impetus for equally impressive events in Portsmouth next year under Nigel Knocker’s chairmanship, Quebec City in 2005 led by Randy Barber, and Chicago in 2006 chaired by Philip and Susan Larson. 

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