On March 28, 2011, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading international human rights organization, posthumously awarded its Medal of Valor to Sir Winston Churchill at a gala dinner in New York. The Chairman of The Churchill Centre’s Board of Trustees, Laurence Geller, accepted the award on behalf of Sir Winston and the Churchill family and made the following remarks.
By Laurence Geller
On behalf of The Churchill Centre I would like to thank the Simon Wiesenthal Center for honoring Sir Winston Churchill with the Medal of Valor. Our mission simply is to ensure that the lessons learned from the life, times, deeds and actions of this bold, courageous, complex giant amongst men are never forgotten. Teaching the importance and relevance of these lessons, and their pertinence in our precarious and rapidly changing world, are what we at The Churchill Centre are passionately driven to do. Not only for today’s generations, but for all generations of freedom loving people yet to come.
It seems to me that The Churchill Centre’s mission, and that of the Simon Wiesenthal Center are so very similar and that together we must strive to ensure the horrors of the twentieth century are not only never repeated but, perhaps more importantly, the lessons learned from that traumatic and bloody century can guide us all not to repeat past tragic mistakes. Millions of the dead surely demand that of us?
Churchill was an unabashed supporter of the rights and destiny of the Jewish people, often to his personal detriment. Anti-Semitism, or perhaps, more correctly stated, Anti-Jewish sentiment, was rife throughout all too many levels of UK society and throughout the corridors of governmental power. Churchill certainly paid a political and popularity price for his support of Jews. However, from his support of the Balfour Declaration to the Foundation of the State of Israel, he never wavered in his beliefs.
The volatile, fragile and all too often terrifying times we live in today are sadly and all too real a mirror of those horrific years when Winston Churchill’s boldness, courage and clarion call were for so many the sole beacon shining brightly as the lights of freedom were rapidly being extinguished throughout Europe. All in the name of perverted causes, ever evil totalitarianism and the inevitable, and always so glibly rationalized, accompanying genocide.
The lessons from Churchill’s deeds are myriad. However above all they are so very relevant today. They teach the need for courageous, bold unambiguous leadership. They teach us we deserve, and must have leaders who are neither cynical nor living in fear of failure. They mandate our having leaders who ignore the fickleness of tomorrow’s polls and are motivated solely by clear, honest and understood ideology and, transcending all, by an overwhelming, determined belief in mankind’s goodness and freedom. They clearly teach us the need for an unflinching persistent willingness to fight, and then fight again and again for the righteousness of our beliefs, whatever the personal costs and risks. For that is the fine line that divides true leaders from mere purveyors of populist pabulum.
For all the Simon Wiesenthal Center stands for and for the recognition of Churchill’s relevance, today I thank you from the bottom of my heart.