Winston Churchill’s unique relationship with America now includes a place of honor in the U.S. Capitol after a bust of the famed former British Prime Minister was dedicated this morning to sit alongside other legendary political figures.
An unusual mixture of admirers, including congressional leaders, administration officials, Churchill’s grandson and even rock star Roger Daltry, gathered to praise a man House Speaker John Boehner called “the best friend the United States ever had.”
The son of an American mother and an English father, Churchill long admired the U.S. even before he rose to prominence in the British parliament. He was the first -- and so far only -- non-American to be awarded honorary U.S. citizenship.
Secretary of State John Kerry noted the irony of the bust’s prominent placement in the Capitol, given the tense history between the two countries following the American Revolution into the 19th century.
“To think that in Statuary Hall, a building British troops tried to burn down, that the bust would stand along Samuel Adams, the founder of the Sons of Liberty -- as well it should,” said the former Massachusetts senator.
“Sizing up this famous and inimitable expression forever now captured in bronze and forever here in the Capitol we remember not just the stirring oratory that you heard us reminded of in the speeches thus far. Oratory that literally rescued the world, gave hope to the world,” the secretary of state added.
Kerry also told of some lighter moments in Churchill’s legendary life.
“We also know something this man's capacity to put the fear of God into his critics and anyone who dared to take him on. The withering retorts that struck fear into those critics. It was Churchill, after all, at a late-night party long past its rightful expiration date, who encountered a scold from his own party, who exclaimed in horror ‘Winston, you are drunk! You are drunk! You are very, very drunk!,’” said Kerry. “And Winston without missing a beat looked back and said, ‘you, you are ugly. You are ugly. You are very, very ugly and what's more tomorrow I shall be sober!’”
“This man was an original in every respect,” Kerry continued to laughter. “When he was invited to the White House for a week he stayed for months. He felt free to use President Roosevelt's bathtub, but no need to wear his bathrobes or any bathrobe when he was done. He really wrote the book on marching to the tune of your own beat.”
Praised by leaders from both sides of the aisle for his admiration of America and relationship with Roosevelt during the tumultuous times of World War II, they spoke of the hope and optimism Churchill saw in America and its system of democracy.
“In another world he might have come here as a member of Congress. His leadership spanned the Atlantic,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi noted. “He is a hero in our nation as well as in his own.”
“He will always hold a place in American memory. Now he will hold a special place in the Capitol of the United States,” Pelosi added.
To close the ceremony, Daltry, lead singer for The Who, performed for the dedication.