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Education: Winston Churchill, LLD.

2 minute read

This week Winston Churchill got an honorary doctorate of laws in absentia from the University of Rochester, his first degree from a U.S. university. The reason the Prime Minister permitted Rochester to stage the kudos scoop of the year was that his mother, born Jennie Jerome, was a native of Rochester. But by a strange paradox, Mr. Churchill accepted the degree from a Quaker who for two years has fought to prevent the U.S. from joining Britain in the war and is a good friend of arch-isolationist Charles Lindbergh—Rochester’s President Alan Valentine.

Smart, young (40) Alan Valentine, a Rhodes scholar, was accused by fellow Rhodesmen of ingratitude to Britain when he began two years ago to write impassioned letters to Senators and President Roosevelt demanding that they keep the U.S. out of war. He went to Washington this year to oppose the Lend-Lease Bill. Now in favor of U.S. arming for defense, he insists that to send troops to Europe would be “pure midsummer madness.”

Nonetheless, President Valentine last week explained that his university had decided to kudize Winston Churchill for “his distinction as a historian … his position as the elected leader of a great and friendly democracy … the courage, candor and effectiveness with which he is leading his nation. . . .” At commencement exercises this week he handed Dr. Churchill’s diploma to Noel Hall, British Minister to Washington, and eulogized to the Prime Minister by transatlantic radio: “. . . Our hearts speak out to England. . . . Our common cause is freedom. . . .Winston Churchill, no longer historian and statesman, but symbol of Britain aroused . . . America admires you. . . . May peace with freedom be your crowning work. . . .”

U.S. radio listeners heard Churchill’s reply: “What touches me most in this ceremony is that sense of kinship and of unity which I feel exists between us this afternoon. . . . Here at least in my mother’s birth city of Rochester, I hold a latch-key to American hearts. . . . What is the explanation of the enslavement of Europe by the German Nazi regime? . . . There was no unity. . . . The nations were pulled down one by one. … Is this tragedy to repeat itself once more? Ah, no. . . . United we stand, divided we fall.”

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