Early in the days of World War II, I remember distinctly the family huddled around the radio listening to the voice of Winston Churchill. He not only inspired the Brits, but encouraged Americans as well. He was truly a man for all seasons and a statesman never to be forgotten.
On this day in 1963, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill became the very first person to become an honorary citizen of the United States. A foreign person of exceptional merit may be declared an honorary citizen of the United States by an Act of Congress or by a proclamation issued by the president, pursuant to authorization granted by Congress. Only seven people have been so honored, five posthumously (happening, done or published after someone’s death) and two, Sir Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa, during their lifetimes.
Sir Winston Churchill, (Nov. 30, 1874 - Jan. 24, 1965) served two terms as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer and an artist. He is the only British prime minister to have won the Nobel Prize in literature.
A formidable figure, rotound in size and easily recognizable by his oversized cigar, Churchill was a man of many excesses. He smoked, ate and drank too much, but his wife, Clementine, tried to keep him in line. Ten years her senior, her husband affectionately called her “Clemmie.”
Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany. On the outbreak of the second World War, his steadfast refusal to consider defeat, or surrender, helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the war when Britain stood alone in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts while he led Britain as prime minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured.
President John F. Kennedy had these accolades to shower upon Churchill when he conferred upon him honorary citizenship at the White House on April 9, 1963.
“We meet to honor a man whose honor requires no meeting — for he is the most honored and honorable man to walk the stage of human history in the time in which we live.
Whenever and wherever tyranny threatened, he has always championed liberty.
Serving six monarchs of his native Great Britain, he has served all men’s freedom and dignity.
In the dark days and darker nights when Britain stood alone. He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The incandescent quality of his words illuminated the courage of his countrymen.
By adding his name to our rolls, we mean to honor him — but his acceptance honors us far more. For no statement or proclamation can enrich his name — the name Sir Winston Churchill is already legend.”