The Place to Find All Things Churchill

Chairman Laurence Geller’s Remarks to ICS (UK) London, 1 November 2018

International Churchill Society (UK) Dinner, London

ICS (UK) holds an annual dinner in London to acknowledge notable events of the year and present annual ICS awards. This years dinner took place in the Hyatt’s Churchill Hotel in Portman Square, London. These are the introductory remarks of Laurence Geller CBE, Chairman.


Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the International Churchill Society’s Annual London Dinner celebrating our 30th Anniversary and I thank you for being with us this evening.

I shall be brief and limit my remarks to thanking a few people without whom tonight would not be possible

As well as acknowledging just a few of our distinguished guests

And giving you a quick update on the recent achievements of the society

combined with what lies ahead for us in this ever changing world.

For the first time, this event is fittingly at the Churchill Hotel

And we thank both the hotel and Mr. Arnaud De Saint-Expurey, its terrific General Manager for their support – thank you Arnaud.

Thank you to the ever generous Pol Roger family for their sponsorship and, of course, the wonderful bubbles.

I want to thank so many of you who have so graciously been sponsors of the dinner tonight

Which has raised, I am told, over £125,000 for our worthy cause

I must also thank Jennie Churchill, Claire Bishop of the Churchill Hotel and Executive Director Andy Smith, who have worked so very hard to stage this event.

I would now like to especially acknowledge a few of this evening’s guests:

Particularly so many of the Churchill family which include Celia Sandys, Rupert and Millie Soames, Minnie, Randolph, Catherine, Jennie Churchill and Marina and David Brounger

And importantly members of the next generation, Churchill’s great, great grandchildren, George Repard and Zoe Churchill, who prepare to assume their own mantles of responsibility.

Others include

Lady Williams, Churchill’s ever unflappable secretary

Nonie Chapman who worked with Clementine and then with Mary Soames, devoting 50 years of her life to being an essential part of the Churchill family

  • The Rt Hon Michael Gove, Secretary of State Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whose tireless work on this country’s behalf truly exemplifies public service,
  • Madam Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing,
  • The United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, His Excellency Mr. Woody Johnson,
  • Sir Peter Westmacott, who gave so much to this nation as our Ambassador in Washington DC,
  • Lord Michael Howard, who contributed so much as leader of the Conservative party,
  • Lord Dobbs, who when if his novel “House of Cards” and the UK and  US TV series, influenced his life, characteristically answered “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment”
  • Dame Athene Donald of Churchill College Cambridge, an institution which not only houses the Archives but gives so much to all in the Churchill world.

As a hotelier myself, I am very pleased to welcome Raffi Serrano, who is magnificently converting Admiralty Arch to the Waldorf Hotel.

And tonight is sitting with the former Naval First Sea Lord, Sir Benjamin Bathurst, who during his tenure in office, lived for so long in that very building.

Such delicious history and memories remain to be shared.

We strive, with your much needed help, to both live up to our late Patron, Mary Soames, instructions “Keep the Memory Green”.

In 1940 Churchill said: “History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.”

We are here this evening to support our much needed work, never forgetting Churchill’s 1948 paraphrasing of Santayana when he said:

“Those that fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

We continue to increase our efforts to ensure that Churchill’s history and legacy remain relevant.

We know full well that the lessons learned from his life with its vast and varied activities and achievements.

Must reach more ears, more hearts and more minds than we have before

Especially those that have a role in shaping our today’s and tomorrows.

Given today’s fast changing and volatile time, communicating the lessons learned from Sir Winston Churchill has never been more essential.

In the society we have never wavered in our duty and, through over three decades of “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat”

We have played an important part in bringing the memory of Churchill back into the forefront of the public eye.

At long last, we are at the “end of the beginning”.

2018 has been an eventful year for the International Churchill Society and Churchillians everywhere

And we significantly contributed to the ever increasing momentum in the world of Churchill.

Significant new works, by such amazing and accomplished authors as Andrew Roberts have brought fresh insights and perspectives.

And yet more great scholarship is on the way.

Major films about Churchill and World War II are abounded – causing a massive increase in awareness about all things Churchill

Darkest Hour deservedly garnered a plethora of awards (including the much coveted Oscar and BAFTA for Gary Oldman’s amazing portrayal of Churchill).

And we have with us this evening, Doug Urbanski, Gary Oldman’s long standing friend, collaborator and close business asscoiate

Additionally, of course, films such as Dunkirk and others added to our ‘Lion’s Roar’.

The now two years old, the National Churchill Library and Center at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. continues to grow

With its expanding collections, seminars and very successful series -“Churchill Conversations”.

Tonight will be the second of our “Churchill Interviews” series in the UK with a video conversation between Michael Gove and Andrew Roberts.

Following on from last year’s interview of Sir John Major by Lord Marland.

In 2019 a full rollout of the series is planned both here and in the US and we will be dealing with matters of both historic and current relevance.

All of these interviews will not only be published on our website but will be edited and widely distributed through social media.

The exhibition ‘Churchill’s Shakespeare’ opened to critical acclaim last month in Washington DC’s Folger Shakespeare Library

The National Churchill Museum, in Fulton Missouri, the location of Churchill’s famous ‘Iron Curtain’ Speech, goes from strength to strength.

The Pentland Sponsored Churchill Poster `Design Competition’ continues to expand and flourish.

Our partnership with the English-Speaking Union is stronger than ever,

With this year’s ‘ESU-Churchill National Public Speaking Competition for Schools’ once again providing a unique national platform for so many talented young people.

It is so very pleasing and rewarding to see more and more Churchill programs, events, exhibitions continuing to grow organically as interest in Churchill annually increases.

The historic Long Beach-based, Queen Mary, launched her new Churchill exhibit.

The digitized Churchill Archive for Schools providing free and regularly updated lessons.

And teaching modules on Churchill to school students throughout the world continually expands its reach and numbers, far exceeding our initial estimates

We are launching Scholarship and Fellowship programs in the UK and USA.

And, although 2019 will see them in the roll out of this fundamental and important program,

I am truly delighted this evening to be able to announce the launch of the International Churchill Society’s first program, the exciting Churchill Pentland Scholarships.

Developed with impetus, creativity and support by Stephen Rubin

And organized by a Trans-Atlantic relationship between ICS, University College London School of Public Policy and New York University Wagner

The first two annual Scholarships will be awarded for the 2019 / 2020 academic year.

Candidates will be residents of a low or middle-income country as defined by the World Bank.

Each scholarship recipient will have to demonstrate a commitment to improving public service and administration for the populations of low- or middle-income countries.

Eligible candidates will be short-listed by the two universities.

They will then be reviewed by a Selection Panel,

Which will be responsible for selecting the best and most deserving candidates, who will make the biggest difference to the world.

With us this evening is the President and Provost of UCL, Professor Michael Arthur, who’s invaluable support helped launch the first of our scholarships

And I would like to thank him and his colleagues for their hard work in bringing this bold program to fruition.

The ICS Research Program’s first sponsored project will be launched at George Washington University in January 2019

And we plan to continue this research program in the UK.

Our much acclaimed, ever improving, quarterly magazine Finest Hour

Ceaselessly goes from strength to strength and stands tall amongst all such publications.

The Churchill Bulletin reaches some 40,000 people with each edition.

Our website now gets over 2 million hits annually.

And, for the first time, over 40% of the traffic comes from 18 – 34-year-olds – a healthy trend for our future.

Our daily social media program gets better and better with a widening reach to ever greater numbers.

Our conferences continually improve and delve further into the life of the great man

As we understand not only his past but increasingly promulgate the lessons to influence the future and use his leadership examples to set a much needed standard for all to follow

Tonight I can announce that our 2020 Annual Conference will be held at Churchill College Cambridge from 17th – 20th September 2020.

Know that it is no accident that Chartwell and Blenheim thrive today as never before

And research figures continue to increase at the Churchill Archives Centre in Churchill College, Cambridge with all the upcoming scholarship symbolized by those increases

All the while, the queues waiting to go to the Churchill War Rooms and Museum stretch further and further

We know history does not repeat itself, but it certainly has an influence.

Look around the volatile, fragile and, perhaps, dangerous world today

And it is clear that we are not at the end of history or in some brave new world.

Globally, we are still dealing with the legacies of the past as society still fights the sorts of battle that would be recognizable to Churchill.

Lady Soames quite rightly would caution against trying to presume to know what her father would do or say in response to the latest news.

But, we can certain of one thing.

He would not have done or said nothing.

He would have thrown himself into the debate.

He would have spoken out where he saw wrong doing, and he would have sought to take “Action This Day”.

Like Churchill, we cannot, and we must not, do or say nothing.

The International Churchill Society continues to believe that by learning from Churchill’s past, we can fulfil our duty to influence the future.

But we also recognize that we need to help create the Churchills of the future,

Enabling them to speak truth to power,

Helping them to articulate their vision,

And giving them the skills to shape their destiny.

Your being here this evening means so much to us and we thank you for your generosity of spirit and wallet.

We hope you will continue to support us.

Without your continued and increasing help, we cannot do all that must be done

As we continue the much needed labour of keeping the memory of Britain’s Finest Son ‘green’

And know that together we can, we must and we will keep

The ‘light’ of his lessons burning bright for generations yet to come.

Please enjoy yourselves tonight and again on behalf of this wonderful society – THANK YOU.

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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.