My presentation on Winston Churchill at St. Olaf College yesterday turned into an unexpectedly exhilarating experience. Rocket Man trekked down to Northfield with his son Eric to lend moral support. I’m grateful for Rocket Man’s generous remarks below on the event and Eric’s perceptive comments on it afterwards. Please indulge these additional notes.
I was originally invited to submit an application to lead one of 40 seminars to be given at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum hosted this year by St. Olaf College. The students inviting me to submit an application were looking for the expression of a point of view that they thought would be in short supply among the anticipated orgy of hate-America pacifism; Jimmy Carter was to be the keynote speaker and the theme of this year’s Forum was announced as “Striving for Peace: Roots of Change.” The seminars were to address “grassroots activism.”
It occurred to me that Winston Churchill’s comprehensive efforts to awaken his countrymen to the dangers posed by Hitler and Nazism while he was out of high office during the 1930’s might work as a subject. It would respond to the assigned theme and provide an alternate view of how peace should be promoted. In part, I intended to discuss how Churchill had opposed the English peace movements that had helped bring on World War II.
I submitted an application for a seminar titled “‘Facts are better than dreams’: The statesmanship of Winston Churchill in the 1930’s.” I described the subject as Churchill’s efforts to awaken his fellow citizens to the necessity of rearmament and military force to confront the Nazi threat. Naively I wondered to myself how they could turn it down.
The day I received e-mail notice that the proposed seminar had been turned down I called to ask the program co-chair why it had been rejcted. He told me that the topic involved events so long ago that it would not be of interest to the students attending the Forum. It wasn’t until later that I learned that several of the accepted seminars involved historical subjects, although in those cases the seminars rigorously hewed to an anti-American or pacifist line.
Among the seminars and programs scheduled for the weekend were the following:
“Being Peace,” a dance seminar: “Understanding peacefulness requires, in part, having experienced it oneself. This session will explore a variety of body-mind activities geared toward generating an inner state of peace. We will work with the movement principle of ‘yield,’