“Servant of the People” Winston Churchill addresses the US Congress

Photo:  Winston Churchill addressing Congress, 26 December 1941; Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing Congress, 21 December 2022 

475 words / 2 ½ minute read

Joint Session of Congress

I feel greatly honoured that you should have invited me to enter the United States Senate Chamber and address the representatives of both branches of Congress.  The fact that my American forebears have for so many generations played their part in the life of the United States, and that I am, an Englishman, welcomed in your midst, makes this experience one of the most moving and thrilling in my life, which is already long and has not been entirely uneventful.  I wish indeed that my mother, whose memory I cherish across the vale of years, could have been here to see.  By the way, I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own.  In that case, this would not have been the first time you would have heard my voice.  In that case I should not have needed any invitation, but if I had, it is hardly likely it would have been unanimous.  So perhaps things are better as they are.  I may confess, however, that I do not feel quite like a fish out of water in a legislative assembly where English is spoken.

I am a child of the House of Commons.  I was brought up in my father’s house to believe in democracy.  “Trust the people” – that was his message.  I used to see him cheered at meetings and in the streets by crowds of working men way back in those aristocratic Victorian days when, as Disraeli said, the world was for the few, and for the very few.  Therefore I have been in full harmony all my life with the tides which have flowed on both sides of the Atlantic against privilege and monopoly, and I have steered confidently towards the Gettysburg ideal of “government of the people by the people for the people.”  I owe my advancement entirely to the House of Commons, whose servant I am.  In my country, as in yours, public men are proud to be the servants of the State and would be ashamed to be its masters.  On any day, if they thought the people wanted it, the House of Commons could by a simple vote remove me from my office.  But I am not worrying about it at all.  As a matter of fact, I am sure they will approve very highly of my journey here, for which I obtained the King’s permission in order to meet the President of the United States and to arrange with him all that mapping-out of our military plans, and for all those intimate meetings of the high officers of the armed services of both countries, which are indispensable to the successful prosecution of the war.

The first two paragraphs of Churchill’s speech, from The Churchill Documents, Volume 16, The Ever-Widening War, 1941

“Servant of the People” was Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s comedic satire on the exploits of a history teacher who becomes the President of Ukraine.  In 2019 the political party Servant of the People won the parliamentary election and Zelenskyy became President of Ukraine.  Sometimes life does imitate art.

 Read: Churchill, The Power of Words

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