Churchill gives a knock-out speech at the US senate
His wartime rallying cry hails the ‘special relationship’
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”.