Last week, Missouri was honored by a diplomatic visit from British Consul General John Saville, and, of course, Sir Winston Churchill was highly featured.
For those who don’t know, Sir Winston and Missouri have strong connections. Members of his family are in the state quite often, there are statues and busts of him from a bridge in Kansas City to the State Capitol. And the reason is that the special relationship between the US and the UK was born here – in Fulton, Missouri.
The time was 1946, Sir Winston was no longer Prime Minister, but he saw the warning signs on the horizon as to the true nature of the Soviet empire. And Sir Winston was looking for an opportunity to warn the world.
In the meantime, the president of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, was dreaming big and was about to extend an invitation to Sir Winston to speak at his small college in rural Missouri. It was then that fate intervened.
Westminster College President F.L. McCluer was visiting a college friend in the White House, Harry Vaughan, who served as President Harry S. Truman’s military aide. He mentioned the letter he was about to send to Churchill, and Vaughan immediately took McCluer in to see Truman. Truman read the letter, and said, “That might work. Wait a minute.” Truman then wrote a person note on the bottom of the letter, promising to introduce Churchill if he came.
The letter was sent, and Churchill knew he had the platform he was looking for. And on March 5, 1946, Churchill delivered the “Sinews of Peace” or “Iron Curtain” speech to the world in which he not only warned the world of the Soviet threat, but also used the term “special relationship” for the first time when describing the connections between the US and the UK.
Today, that site in Fulton is the home of the National Churchill Museum, along with a chapel that was bombed in the Blitz and that was moved brick-by-brick from London to Missouri.
And also made reference to that special relationship during his speech to the Missouri House in Jefferson City.
The remainder of the trip included a visit to St. Louis, meeting with regional leadership, UK companies with a presence in Missouri, US companies doing business in the UK, a tour of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and a visit with Mark Reardon on KMOX Radio.
All focused on building and strengthening that special relationship that drives a thriving two-way trade relationship, political and military cooperation, and a thriving economic engine that sees British companies employing Missourians in Missouri, and Missouri companies employing Brits in the UK.