We had an unusually starry visitor to the Archives Centre yesterday: the American Ambassador, Matthew Barzun dropped in, to talk to students and have a sneak preview of our new exhibition space. Cue many visits from large unobtrusive men in suits and a certain amount of frenetic dusting and polishing …
As it turned out, the Ambassador had a link to College already, as his grandfather was an Overseas Fellow of Churchill, in 1963-4. He spent an hour talking to an audience of American and British students, on views of American foreign policy (do they intervene too much, or too little?), and common perceptions of America (the gun issue is what generally comes to mind first, apparently) then nipped upstairs to the Archives Centre reading room. Here he saw some of our more transatlantic treasures, including Longfellow’s “Ship of State” poem, which was written out for Churchill by President Roosevelt and hand-delivered to him by Wendell Wilkie, Roosevelt’s Republican opponent in the 1940 Presidential election. Churchill was greatly inspired by the poem, and quoted from it in a 1941 wartime broadcast, later having it framed and hung on his wall at Chartwell.
Then it was on to the new exhibition on Churchill and the College (which will have its formal opening later this week), where the Ambassador promptly whipped out his camera and started taking a few souvenir photos of his own.
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