tv George Will on Iron Curtain Speech 75th Anniversary CSPAN March 31, 2021 9:01pm-9:42pm EDT
conversation this morning. we would like thank timothy riley for being on with us this morning. he is the director and chief curator of america's national churchill museum. timothy thank you for being with us this. morning >> thank you very much. whether they not used human to their vantage. the gerald are four -- and the gerald are ford museum cohosted event. watch thursday, beginning at 8 pm eastern. and enjoy american every weekend on c-span 3.
westminster college has been a host for a series of very famous lectures the john finley green foundation lecture chief among them the lecture westminster college has been a host free series a very famous lectures of the jonathan green foundation, chief of london. elector that churchill delivered here 75 years ago. other celebrated lectures here at the ibm lecture, the jerry price lecture, the newly established power lecture ship, established by churchill fellow and passed leadership award recipient, ambassador stephen brower, westminster college classic of 1967. but one of the most venerable lecture series here at the college is the crosby temper series. since 1981, scholars, statesman, women and others have delivered
lectures from the historic court christopher in church of saint mary, the virgin to share with us thoughts on churchill, the angela merkel and other topics. other speakers had included andrew roberts, sir martin gilbert, and others, all of whom had been give in this distinguish title. today, we present that 34th unit inner crosby camper lecture. and the first to be delivered virtually to a global audience. and to introduce today speaker, i'm pleased to welcome churchill fellow and the current director of the institute for museum and library services, cross become poor. >> great, thank you very much tim, i appreciate that introduction. and in the early 1990s, george came to kansas city to speak. i'm sure you will remember this but i was conducting a fan campaign with petitions and banners and bumper stickers to
bring real grass to the field at royals and now coffin stadium. i was honored to sit next to him at lunch and he gave me a learned this position on the seven layered composition of the grass at camp in yards. i think he was on the oriole's at that point. we talked of the genius of georgetown, and the great ground speed peak -- the finances of major league baseball, for as long as one of the five i think commissioners who revolutionized those finances to the existential benefit of the kansas city royals. i hope he has a 2005 world series rain. and he signed my petition to. that perhaps along with this electricity areas on churchill and his time is one of my last last contribution to civilization. civilization and citizenship our words, concepts and really electric activities central to toward worlds work. he came back to kansas city
again, i'm probably not remember this but to speak for the bank that i work for. in the early 2000s, and his schedule was empty part of the mornings were invited him to go with me to visit the negro leagues museum. he told me he'd already been there early that morning and indeed, he was on the advisory board. a citizen at work. i hope he agrees with me that recently the announcement that major league baseball will include a negro leagues statistic, is a civilization will advance. for this introduction, i went back to his classical baseball book, men at work. the hair, i found my notes from previous introductions, and which i opened with a line that as a lifelong chicago cubs fan, he clearly has a crowd trick signs of life. that line, and as they say, is no longer operational. but for this introduction, i
read the two summit divvy books of his political philosophy from 1983 and his recently published an magisterial, the conservatives sensibility. these are the works of a lifelong american piece relief and an almost lifelong republican, he therefore retains his tragic sense of life. i should say that from stick rough to soul craft to the conservatives -- he has gone from being a european conservative to being an american conservative. his index for the first is heavily weighted -- and in the new magnum opus, it's madison and hamilton and particularly the federalist papers and their nemesis. in many ways, the book is weighty and devastating elaboration of british philosopher, michael oak shots great essay, rational-ism in politics. he quotes i'm sane, dreaming and ruling generates tyranny.
virtual is the free critic of the overreaching overheated rational list progressivism of our time. tyranny and defenses against it are the subject of churchill's great iron curtain speech. unlike george will, he finds the greatest offense in the heritage and tradition of the rule of law, exemplified by the british unwritten constitution and the very well written american constitution. they are, how are several religion. george will quotes -- we don't have monarch. we have a constitution. he himself refers to the making of constitution and its defense by madison and hamilton as our lewis moment. churchill speaks in the iron curtain speech about magnet carded, the bill of rights, trial by jury, english common law and most famously, the declaration of independence. it is my hope that in the work
that i do today, as director of the institute museum and library services of the federal government that as we head into the 250th anniversary of the founding, we can find this luminous moment in our own moments, we knew the work of sharing this heritage in these ideals and remarkable historic experience that george will rights so brilliantly. he's our greatest interpreter and government, and politics, and the rhetoric, descended and not yet completely lost from our founders. the greatest earlier interpreter of this constitutionalism is winston churchill. and so on the anniversary of the 75th anniversary office great call to action for the preservation of civilization, it is appropriate and wonderful that we are able to welcome george will, whose words have found the luminosity and our founding and even occasionally the poetry in our politics. ladies and gentlemen, george will. >> thank you very much.
i want to thank you first for allowing distressed to come back to the midwest virtually. i also want to thank you for giving to the occasion of my boat high. maybe blue, white polka dots. and i thank you for the privilege of speaking on the 75th anniversary of winston churchill's great speech. the speech that he himself considered his greatest, which is saying something for a lifetime of wonderful rhetoric. his speech did two things. first, his speech validated and the accident from a great state of missouri, perhaps the greatest, mark twain. twain said that god invented war, and teaching americans geography. winston churchill is the reason why americans know this the baltic is the -- second, churchill speech
announced the onset of the cold war, which will hood continue for 43 years. and as they did in the 1930s, and the 1940s, churchill sopping's her his way and he said things clearly. i have an amiable long-distance disagreement with my friend andrew regions -- the best biographer of churchill. as a child of illinois, i insist that lincoln is the greatest figure in the history of world politics and i insist that it is churchill. this much is indisputable. the only remaining argument concerns which historical figure gets the bronze medal for third place. when churchill spoke at westminster college, he did something that great orders can do. he implanted in the book vocabulary of his era. a phrase that caught the areas imagination, anxieties.
a phrase that riveted attention and distilled and a two two syllable words, the high stakes of the earliest politics. the phrase was of course, iron curtain. the word iron suggests the danger of permanence, as did beginning in august 61, the concrete of the berlin wall. part of churchill's real isn't, which is my subject today is the knowledge that nothing necessarily lacks. nothing. the only political thing is that my last. the other things that we work tirelessly to make permanent work to get rid of. the second word in churchill's freeze, iran, to phrase which itself has lasted is the word curtain. curtains are code to prevent
people from seeing things. churchill knew that the evil architects of the iron curtain had something to hide. the first principle of churchill's realism was the honest, candid, forthright usual disclosures -- simply of the bloc merits. words such as iron and curtain. the second principle of churchill's real-ism was to realize that people often do not wish to be realistic. indeed, they wish to be spared from real-ism. reality uc can be distressing and demanding and dangerous. so, at fulton, true tilted what's more readers did not flinch from doing. he said something that his audience was actually the entire american, did not want to hear. in 1946, americanso0rcxq>ñ worrl
given total global war. >> and for restoration of normality. churchill said not yet. he said there will be no holiday for his three. he said, if i might him from speaking the language of his -- americans must stiffened are seniors and sum up their blood. the world needed americans. and the 1946 world of shattered nations, there were things that only the united states could do. the recent american secretary of state, madame albright refers to the united states as the indispensable --
to today even more true in 1946. the first thing, only the united states could do was to begin repairing the shattered nations. this began the next year that the announcement of the marshall plan. . the two world wars where perhaps we should say, the 20th century's 30 years war had raised the question about the future of nations themselves. 11 months before churchill spoke here, the united nations looks like was born in san francisco. let's talk about the possibility of what the word being moving beyond the nation states. there had been similar talk after the first world war. when he league of nations had begun its short, unhappy life. churchill however had romantic attachment with the majesty of ancient nations, of not trust
-- but, the van from western missouri who brought churchill the westminster college 75 years ago i had earlier in his life been fascinated by the possibility of the world made peaceful by reduced rule four nations. in 1910 of a world made peaceful by in 1910 on the other side of the state, harry truman was 25 and he was working on his family farm behind a horse drawn plow. he very likely is the last american president never to have gone to college in the last two have worked behind a horse drawn plow. truman had put in his pocket that year, in 1910, a copy of tennis since palm lock sly hall, which includes these lines about a world without wars. a world subdued by international law, a world made safe and tranquil, until the
war drum drugs throbbed no longer and the battle flags were furled, in the parliament of man, the federation of the world. they are the common sense of most shall hold the fretful realm in awe, and the kindly are shall slumber then universal law. nice words. not true chilean. churchill knew better. truman carried this poem when he went to france as an artillery captain in the first world war. he carried the poll in his pocket on april 12th, 1945, when he was suddenly summoned from the u.s. capital building to the white house and told that he had become president. truman became president the month the united states and the united nations was born in san francisco. by then however, dreams of a
world made tranquil by universal law had melted in the cauldron of war. today, we know what churchill never doubted. nations are here to stay. nations not super national entities, are the prime movers of history. and the united states which churchill loved as much as he loved is american mother, it is more indispensable than ever. i'll give you just one example. churchill firmer -- certainly appreciate. a two thirds of the planet that is covered with water the oceans, the great global common, will be policed and kept orderly by the united states navy or it will not be orderly. we are 75 years on from one at churchill's urging here, the united states unfurled a flag of world leadership.
75 years later, our nation is wiser than it once was. about the seniors and the limits of its strength. the united states has experienced some hard learning on the road from fulton and churchill's appearance there to here. the hard learning began for years after churchill spoke here when president truman from independence, missouri took the nation into war in korea. the hard learning continued in vietnam. it continued in iraq in the first decade of the century. and it continues today in afghanistan, where the united states seems to be in the painfully slow processes of disengaging from what clearly is an impossible task. the task of nation building in a country that is not really a nation.
more than a decade ago, when our involvement in afghanistan was already a decade old, i had a conversation with then secretary of defense robert gates, in his pentagon office. i asked him, i said secretary, when was the last time that afghanistan had a government who ran throughout the country? secretary gates answered briskly with one word, never, he said. so once again, we have received a redundant lesson in the in possibility of nation building. a phrase that would've hub appalled churchill because it would've in offended his insistence on religion. and 1965, the year churchill died, president lyndon johnson's vice president, former minnesota senator hubert humphrey, said he thought the vietnam undertaking was
exhilarating. he said and i quote, we ought to be excited about this challenge because here is where we can put to work some of the ideas about nation building. now, the phrase nation building is a semi oxymoron. it is a contradiction in termsq, i can to the phrase working the building. as trips on, new nations like organs are organic growth. they are not things to be assembled and disassembled like tinker toys. and as churchill also new, coming as he did from a european strewn with ruins, leaders who are not steeped in history, not marinated in history, are apt to blunder. and by blundering, they will make bad history and more ruins. 200 years ago this year, on our
nation's 46th independence day, july 4th, 1821, then secretary of state john quincy adams delivered a lucid and measured statement of what he considered americas proper stance towards the world. i want to read you a portion of one paragraph i'm it because it is in anticipation of a version of churchill ian realism. secretary of state john quincy adams said, and i quote wherever the standard of freedom independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will america's heart hurt and her prayers be. but she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. she is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all, she is the champion and vindicator only of her own. she well knows that by once
enlisting under other battersyl that her own, she will involve herself beyond the power of extra cash in and all the wars of interest in intrigue. of individual, avarice, envy and ambition. the fundamental maxims of her policies should insensibly change from liberty to force. and quote. now and secretary adams recommended this the world was very different. and what he recommended is proven to be easier said than done, in the two centuries in which the united states is filled the continent and risen to responsibilities around the world. it simply is not possible the united states be merely wet adams called the well-wisher. although we long for freedom. it is not possible because our national premise is that the principles by which we live,
and that we are spouse, our explicitly universal. we are as our greatest president said, our 16th, mr. lincoln from central illinois, he said we are a nation dedicated to a proposition. the most important word enough proposition is all, as in all men are created equal. when john quincy adams made his pronouncement in 1821, the united states had negligible military capabilities, as befitted a nation protected by the existence of to weaken placid neighbors and to broad oceans traversed only by wind powered ships. two centuries later, the world is knitted together by economic globalization, and the globe has been shrunk by technologies of travel, communication, and the projection of military power.
the united states foreign policy should therefore adopt the prudence that secretary adams recommended. it must however, have a churchill ian sense of the great responsibilities that come with americans great power and america's great principles. both of which were subjects of the speech made 75 years ago in fulton, missouri. regarding the foreign policy the american mind is by bifurcated. on one, hand we are a nation of immigrants. we are all descended from people who came here to get away from their, wherever there was. in places=z,ñc@< entangled with wars and revolutions. so americas instinctive isolation isolationism seems likely when it sleeps at all. on the other hand, we are a cradle nation whose creed
impels us to lean into the world in a way that churchill encouraged. and in a way that saved churchill's nation as he will knew on the night of pearl harbor when we were blasted into the world conflict. today there is much american soul searching about the nature of our nation. there are those who advocate a kind of tribal nationalism, and ethnonationalism suited for what these advocates call a caucasian christian nation. but a few europeans have understood america better than some of today's americans do. prime minister margaret thatcher, the moisture chilean britain since churchill himself, correctly said this, quote european nations were made by history. the united states was made by philosophy. that philosophy, the heart of which is the doctrine of the
universal natural rights is always and directly pertinent to u.s. foreign policy. henry kissinger has argued that americans believes in our principles are universally true. he implies the governments based on other principles are less than legitimate. they are, as it were on permanent probation. our founding document, the declaration of independence, does not mince words. it says governments derive their just powers, they're just powers from the consent of the government. therefore, many of the world's governments do not have just powers. kissinger has also said acutely that on the one hand, americans frequently seem to regard foreign policy as an optional activity. on the other hand, the belief that american principles should be universal, the belief that justice would be served if all
nations emulated our nation. this belief sometimes begets another belief. that u.s. foreign policy should have a missionary purpose of spreading our universal truths. wind still winston churchill knew better. and remember, this is a man who loved our country. winston churchill understood that this custody of history, the vast inertia of nations and national cultures. he was adverse to unrealistic national ambitions abroad. the united states has paid a steep price for not sharing his realism about this. in march, 2003, three weeks before the u.s. invasion of iraq, president george w. bush said and i quote, human cultures can be vastly different if the human heart desires the same good things
everywhere on earth. and quote. that is as suggests and i think churchill would've said, wishful thinking. exactly the sort of thinking churchill deplored. it is refuted by virtually every blood soaked chapter of human history, which is a story still being written, of strife. strife with passion and political differences. the human art is just not the same everywhere and at all times. churchill knew this. he knew the tragic dimension of history, which is that intense human desires will always exist and will always conflict. four months after the u.s. invasion of iraq in july, 2003, a british prime minister, tony blair told a joint session of the u.s. congress that it is a
myth that quote our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture and quote. blair added, quote ours are not western values, they are the universal value of the human spirit and anywhere, anytime that ordinary people are given a chance to choose, the choice is the same. freedom not tyranny. democracy not dictatorship. and quote. well, churchill himself, a historian of distinction and a keen student of history knew better. he knew that not everyone everywhere shares our attachment to freedom or even our definition of freedom. some people prefer piety. or they prefer social solidarity, or they prefer order. there are lots of competing values. freedom is but one.
churchill knew our attachment to freedom and the institutions indispensable for making it flourish is the product of a complex and protracted centuries along a culture ration, primarily in the west. especially among those churchill hemmed in his perk. the english speaking people. he seemed to say baghdad or boston, new york or new delhi, mongolia or missouri, what difference does it make? democracy can take root in any social soil, however stunning and uphill. churchill how ever, great student of nations differences and national -- trail near that differences are enormous and important. he knew that even the merely 20 mile width of the english
channel separates political cultures that differ in significant ways. they do because they have been incubated by very different histories. it has been well said that whatever americans want at the policy is as little of it as possible. but something else has also been well said. for two centuries now, the only thing more comments and predictions about the end of war, has been war itself. the vietnam war was america's most severe trauma since -- i think churchill, was even occasionally by the coast, but was selective. what is approved of the words of kamala until -- about vietnam. he was a decorated combat marine in vietnam, before he wrote one of the great novels
of that war, matter when. his regrets, he says, quote, that the prudence we learned from our involvement in china was derived from vietnam syndrome. he was not to say, if by vietnam syndrome we mean that belief that u.s. should never again engage in a, military inventions in the form of civil wars and without clear objectives and clear exit strategy. and b, nation building and countries whose history and culture we are ignorant and see, sacrificing our children when our lives, way of life or government for the people are not directly threatened. then, we should never take over the vietnam syndrome. it is not an illness, it's a vaccination.
close quote. that vaccination war off and so we went off to iraq. thereby validating the accident, the only thing we learned from his threes that we do not learn from history. today however, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of one of the great contributions to western civilization's tradition of political rhetoric. now, as i close, let me ask your indulgence for a brief biographical coated remarks. when churchill spoke in fulton, i was not quite five years old. in two months, i will be 80. i have never, not once wanted to be a day younger than otherwise at any given moment. and churchill is one reason why i actually relish growing older. i have i think come to understand what may churchill tick and white made him
distinctive and indispensable. it was his genius, born of living a long life to understanding the texture of life. it's complexities, it's ten to defeat the grand attentions of people who have no realistic sense -- but, churchill's understanding that there are limits to what nations can achieve did not immobilize this plan of action. he came to fulton to deliver to our nation a call to action. he came in the spirit of james russell in 19th century american poet. in 1945, our nation was torn by disputes about slavery and about the impending war with mexico. both of which aren't opposed. in that era -- with least five misaligns. wants to every man in nation
comes their moment to decide, in the strength of truth for the good or evil side. in the 1930s, churchill wise for a while nearly alone and saying, that such a moment had arrived for britain. and for us. in 1946, he came to fulton to urge our nation to measure up to another -- and our nation tonight. united states turn to the business of creating the architecture of collective security for the world, and the liberal regime of create lifted billions of people out of subsistence poverty. the united states, or as churchill like to call us, the great republic was weary but rose to the challenge that he issued at whence -- the cold war was declared, the
cold war was bombed, the cold war would be one. today, americans again are weary of responsibilities abroad. they had been polite and labored and enticed with the song of isolation. but the temptation of withdrawing from the troublesome world. for churchill to return to voting today, he heard, i'm confident, say something like this. there is a democracy recession underway around the world. there are two authoritarian regimes, those of poland and hungry, currently blemishes on the whole of europe. in asia, and the world's most populous nation, the regime is using sinister -- of science and technology to impose a total totalitarianism even more suffocating than those that flourished in the
20th century. there are millions of concentration camps and policies, the united states has designated as genocide. for churchill to look around the world today, and look upon the united states today, he would i think draw our attention to a sentence in his fulton speech that is not received the attention it deserves. this is the sentence. there never was a war in all of his three, easier to percent by timely action than the one which is just decimated create areas of the globe. what prevents timely action is unreal-ism, the human tendency to flinch from unpleasant facts. so,suia in the face of the 1930s and again in 1946 would i think
tell americans in 2021, the truth that was the subtext of his great speech. he would say, to americans, you are weary, you would like to rest but not yet. what this bold of a man and in 1946 and would mean today is, for a great nation, for a great republic, not ever. thank you very much. >> thank you mister well for those terrific remarks and great reminder of the importance and lasting legacy of sir winston churchill to create seniors of speech at westminster college 75 years ago. to conclude and as a token of our thanks, you will receive, if you haven't already, a package from the museum here in
fulton including some relics of the cold war and also a ticket to the iron curtain speech. this was a ticket that was issued 75 years ago two members to hear this speech and our donation here, as well as pieces of the berlin wall, the concrete manifestation of the iron curtain speech that you mentioned so appropriately in your speech, as a reminder that wall to come down eventually and we're very pleased for you for that great reminder. also, welcome i might add to the association of trickle fellows. today marks your induction into that illustrious group, the association of churchill fellows with founded in 1969, as an honorary's -- dedicated to development and use of america's national churchill museum here at westminster college, past fellows include churchill's grandson, walter crump kite,
former british prime minister winston churchill delivered his iron curtain speech at westminster college in fulton, missouri on march 5th, 1946 accompanied by american president harry truman. on the 75th anniversary, the college featured two grandchildren clifton truman daniel and edwina saenz to talk about their grand parents legacies. >> welcome. we are very glad that a global audience is joining us here from america's national churchill museum. i'm timothy raleigh the chief curator here at the museum here