June 5, 2013

Finest Hour 143, Summer 2009

Page 26


By Richard M. Langworth

2024 International Churchill Conference

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On Eleuthera, where we live from December to April, there was vast fascination, as one might expect, over the recent U.S. Presidential election. One of the virtues of this Bahamas Out Island is that racism, in the sense we all know it in the so-called First World, doesn’t really exist. On our easygoing strand, amid the smiles of friendly locals and old friends, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the face in front of you is black or white.

So it was natural for the wife of our local grocer to ask me in all innocence and without rancor: “Is it possible for a non-white to be elected President?”…

…And for me to reply instantly: “It was possible twelve years ago, if the ticket had been Colin Powell and Jack Kemp.”

I am convinced it was possible—not only because Colin Powell, Honorary Member of The Churchill Centre, is a man vast numbers of people like or admire; but because Jack Kemp, Trustee of The Churchill Centre, though they say he ran a bum campaign, was equally so: a politician who, like Churchill, never wrote off any voter, who believed that his libertarian philosophy could appeal to all, that it was the height of patronization to single out a minority and declare that they must have more government because they cannot get by with less of it.

Jack was a man who lived life at maximum rpm, whether as champion quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, as a Congressman who promoted enterprise zones in inner cities, as a empowerment-advocating Housing Secretary, or as a candidate for Vice President who described himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative.” But you can read all about those achievements by Googling his name. I’d rather write about what he meant to his fellow Churchilllians.

The Tenth Churchill Conference in Washington in 1993 was a stellar occasion. Co-sponsored by Senators Boxer and Feinstein, we welcomed Lady Thatcher, Winston Churchill, Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Celia Sandys and Gen. Colin Powell. At the Navy Yard Chapel we reprised the services at Argentia in August 1941, with readings by veterans of USS Augusta and HMS Prince of Wales. Ambassador Alan Keyes not only sang five national anthems including God Defend New Zealand, but all six verses of The Battle Hymn of the Republic—sans music in freezing cold on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As Churchill wrote of Argentia: “Every verse seemed to stir the heart. It was a great hour to live.”

Jack Kemp was our keynote speaker at that conference. We republish here what he said: words of wisdom and inspiration, delivered with his accustomed vigor, and not without humor.

When his introducer made so bold as to compare him to a former Congressman named Lincoln, Jack rose red-faced to disclaim even the slightest similarity. After her appreciation following his speech, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Jack embraced: old colleagues, veterans of political wars, together again, even though (as Jeane told me at dinner), they had differed fervently over the 1982 Falklands War, with Jack firmly on the side of Margaret Thatcher and Great Britain.

Jack and his wife Joanne were with us again at the commissioning of USS Winston S. Churchill in 2001, and we dined together in the wardroom (Finest Hour 111). His last campaign was six years past, but he was still passionate about what The New York Times called his “most important idea….the theory that deep cuts in taxes would lead to such an economic boom that much if not all of the revenue lost from lower taxes would be offset by the additional tax receipts that resulted from greater earnings.”

“What was it Churchill said about Supply-Side economics?” Jack asked between bites.

“He didn’t say anything about Supply-Side economics,” I winked. “He was a Liberal.”

“Yes, he did!” Jack retorted. “You know, about keeping money in people’s pockets.”

Later I looked it up and sent it to him, because he was right, and Churchill’s words ring as true now as when Churchill spoke them, on 16 August 1945:

“What noble opportunities have the new Government inherited! Let them be worthy of their fortune, which also is the fortune of us all. To release and liberate the vital springs of British energy and inventiveness, to let the honest earnings of the nation fructify in the pockets of the people….”

In January Jack Kemp announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Four months later he was gone. Immediately I thought of the words Churchill offered, as only he could, quoting from Adam Lindsay Gordon’s grand poem “The Last Leap,” upon the death of his dearest friend, Lord Birkenhead: “The summons which reached him, and for which he was equally prepared, was of a different order. It came as he would have wished it, swift and sudden on the wings of speed. He had reached the last leap in his gallant course through life. All is over! Fleet career, Dash of greyhound slipping thongs, Flight of falcon, bound of deer, Mad hoof-thunder in our rear, Cold air rushing up our lungs, Din of many tongues.”

Oddly too, remembering the rapidfire way Jack lived and spoke and thought, I thought of another figure in a galaxy far away, the immortal Tazio Nuvolari, the greatest racing driver who ever lived. In Mantua, Italy, where passing drivers in the Mille Miglia would raise a hand in mute salute as they raced through “Nivola’s” home town, his tombstone bears this epitaph: Correrai ancor piu veloce per le vie del cielo. You will travel faster still upon the highways of heaven.

Godspeed, my friend.

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