Camille Phillips l St. Louis Public Radio l September 10, 2013
Winston Churchill is famous for making political speeches, warning of political peril ahead. He warned Great Britain and the world of the dangerous rumblings coming out of Germany during the 1930s as well as when Communist Russia began to expand its reach after World War II. At that time, Churchill warned the world of the "iron curtain" descending across Central and Eastern Europe.
Despite his international message, Churchill chose Westminster College in rural Fulton, Missouri as the stage to deliver his Iron Curtain speech to the world. Today Westminster College is home to the National Churchill Museum.
"What we're trying to do now is bring Churchill to the next generation," said Rob Havers, director of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton.
To that end, the museum has put together a new documentary on Churchill's life and is hosting a state speech competition for middle schoolers using a quote from Churchill as inspiration.
"Clear, effective and persuasive communication is critical even in this age of blogging," said retired Pattonville High School speech and debate coach Randy Pierce. He and his wife are organizing the new competition. This year the the theme will be "Never Confuse Leadership with Popularity."
Shining a spotlight on a historical figure who made speeches warning of trouble ahead is perhaps particularly relevant during the current debate over how to respond to the situation in Syria.
"Looking at leaders today, one thing you can take away from what Winston Churchill did was a focus on the willingness to act appropriately and to do what is necessary when the time comes, but also to persuade people that your course of action is the right course of action, and to get people behind you. You cannot be a leader unless people follow you," said Havers.
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“Leave the past to history especially as I propose to write that history myself.”