Churchill gives a knock-out speech at the US se­nate

His wartime ral­ly­ing cry hails the ‘spe­cial re­la­tion­ship’

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

On Christ­mas Day 1941, Lord Hal­i­fax, the Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, vis­ited the White House to find an ex­tra­or­di­nary visi­tor en­joy­ing the fes­tive sea­son. This was Win­ston Churchill, in the mid­dle of a three-week stay as Pres­i­dent Franklin D Roo­sevelt’s guest. Char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, Churchill had made him­self at home: Hal­i­fax found him in his dress­ing gown, work­ing on a big speech and “sur­rounded by cigars, whiskies and sec­re­taries”.

At noon the next day, Churchill ar­rived at the Capi­tol to de­liver his speech. Only twice be­fore had there been joint meet­ings of both houses of Congress: this was a sig­nal hon­our. With the Ja­panese at­tack on Pearl Har­bor oc­cur­ring barely three weeks be­fore, se­cu­rity was tight. But the cam­eras had been in­vited in to mark the oc­ca­sion; their lights made the usu­ally dim Se­nate cham­ber as bright as a Hol­ly­wood set.

Churchill be­gan with a joke, re­mark­ing: “If my fa­ther had been an Amer­i­can and my mother Bri­tish, in­stead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own. In that case, this would not have been the first time you would have heard my voice.” The au­di­ence laughed, then stood to ap­plaud.

De­spite the dark­ness of the hour, his speech blazed with op­ti­mism. “Now that we are to­gether,” Churchill in­sisted, “now that we are linked in a right­eous com­rade­ship of arms… a steady light will glow and brighten.” There would be grim times ahead. But “in the days to come the Bri­tish and Amer­i­can peo­ples will, for their own safety and for the good of all, walk to­gether in majesty, in jus­tice and in peace”.

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