March 26, 2024

Remarks by the Chairman of the International Churchill Society at the presentation of the 2022 Sir Winston Churchill Leadership Award to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Finest Hour 198, SPECIAL ISSUE 2022

Page 06

By Laurence Geller

Laurence Geller is Chairman of the International Churchill Society.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all on behalf of the International Churchill Society for being here today to honour His Excellency President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In particular, I would like to thank the Churchill family, including our Society’s President, Randolph, Emma Soames, Jennie Churchill, Marina Brounger, and family members that could not be here today for their constant and generous support for our organisation and for upholding the values for which we stand.

I would also like to thank the Prime Minister and his team for hosting this event at Downing Street and for his unsparing support for the International Churchill Society. Mr. Johnson’s determined efforts in the United Kingdom for the Ukrainian people deserve all our admiration.

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We often hear of world changing events. Lately, they seem to occur all too often. In truth, many events that seemed significant in the moment are all too often consigned to a state of obscurity.

you might ask: how does an event take its place as a key moment in history? Although there can be many reasons for it, above all, fundamentally, it is the propensity to inspire. It is the ability to surmount what seemed an insurmountable enemy. Crucially, it is bold defiance in the face of adversity.

The response to the invasion of Ukraine, and indeed, Europe, that we see today, underscores this notion in a way that has not been seen since Sir Winston Churchill’s steadfast and unswerving global leadership more than eighty years ago.

President Zelenskyy—much like Churchill—saw clearly, he warned clearly. He is doing what has to be done. His steadfast attachment to fundamental principles, his indifference to the pressures and expediencies of the moment, and his unbending determination is not only saving his country, it is also helping to save Europe. Above all, by standing up for freedom and democracy, Mr. Zelenskyy inspires the world.

It was Churchill who said, “Once you take the position of not being able in any circumstances to defend your rights against aggression…there is no end to the demands that will be made or to the humiliations that must be accepted.”

His Excellency President Zelenskyy understands this. He acted without hesitation, and, in the process, he has turned the tide of war in his country’s favour. Indeed, once again, democracy is under siege, and Europe finds itself under threat of tyranny. And, as happened in 1940, it is under the leadership of an unexpected statesman that this threat is being repelled.

President Zelenskyy has demonstrated, much like Churchill did, that aggression must not be allowed to succeed and that the rights of people to choose their own way of life freely must be upheld. This is the epitome of democracy that Churchill fought for when he inspired freedom-loving people during those dark days of the Second World War.

I would also like to recognise the role that Britain has played under the leadership of its Prime Minister. Mr. Johnson understood that it was Britain’s duty to be strong enough to do all she can to deter the aggressor, to engage, and to win the battle of ideas—as Churchill sought to do and successfully did.

It is through President Zelenskyy’s fortitude and Prime Minister Johnson’s unwavering support that Ukraine will retain the gift of freedom that can and will be passed on to the future generations of Ukrainians yet to come. But there is no glory in war beyond victory. The events unfolding in Ukraine are a tragedy. Our organisation does not seek to romanticise your struggle, Mr. President. It is our intention, however, as it has been since the creation of our society in 1968, to honour Sir Winston Churchill and the principles for which he stood: freedom, justice, honour, duty, mercy, hope, and— always—courage.

Yes, the International Churchill Society was created to memorialise these values in Churchill’s name, but, Mr. President, it is you and the Ukrainian people that personify them. Mr. President, the wartime hero, in whose name we honour you today, would recognise the equality of the struggle you face to the one he faced in Britain’s darkest hour.

Mr. President, this society and our great nation support and salute you. Slava Ukraini!

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