Friday, July 17, 2009

A Churchillian moment

I spent part of this week on the road for a business trip to the Lake of the Ozarks, in Missouri. On my way to the meeting, I happened to drive through Fulton, Missouri. I was not expecting it -- I didn't check the itinerary beforehand -- but a light went on as soon as I spotted the sign of the city. Now, I am not that old: but in what now feel as a different era, in a different country, I was quite engaged in politics, and a rather staunch "Cold Warrior." Fulton MO immediately evoked a defining moment in that struggle: the speech by one of my heroes, Winston Churchill, warning about the threat of Soviet expansionism in Europe:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.

[Above, Winston Churchill at the podium delivering his lecture to the audience in Fulton, March 1946.]

And here I am, years later, driving though the town that was the scene of the historical moments. Since signs on the main route announced a "Winston Churchill Memorial", I took a few minutes for a quick visit to what turned out to be a very interesting museum, hosted on the ground of the local Westminster College. The story about the invitation sent by the college to Churchill (inspired by an alumnus connected to fellow Missourian Truman) and the visit by the former British Prime Minister and then-President Truman in 1946 is, in itself, fascinating. The following picture was taking as the duo paraded through the streets of Fulton, before the address of the Prime Minister.

The Memorial is a small, wonderful museum, definitely worth a visit longer than the little time I had available -- I am certainly planning on stopping there again at the first opportunity, and spend at least a couple of hours walking through the exhibition, the Church that was transplanted from London to the middle of Missouri in the 1960s, and the surrounding grounds. It is a little gem, and I am glad I had this random opportunity to visit the Memorial to one of my favorite historical characters.

As an additional treat to myself, on my way out, I stopped to the small store inside the museum and bought a copy of "River War" (which I own in Italian, but not in the original English language.) I am sure I will soon succumb to the desire to engage in some Sudan scenario...


Bluebear Jeff said...

I don't recall what course they were for, but when I was in College one of my professors assigned both "The River War" and "Washing of the Spears" as required reading.

Wasn't that nice?

-- Jeff

CWT said...

Hi! I'm just back from a holiday where I visited Berlin for a short time, and got to stand by a section of the actual Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie. Curious to see it all for real! Also, the famous 'Iron Curtain' in the city is now mostly marked only by a line of cobbles in the roads, tracing out the old course of the wall.

Stokes Schwartz said...

What a fascinating find! It sounds terribly interesting. Glad you enjoyed it.

Best Regards,