John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Upon Signing Proclamation Conferring Honorary Citizenship on Sir Winston Churchill.

April 09, 1963

Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the Congress, Members of the Cabinet, His Excellency the British Ambassador, Ambassadors of the Commonwealth, old friends of Sir Winston led by Mr. Baruch, ladies and gentlemen:

We gather today at a moment unique in the history of the United States.

This is the first time that the United States Congress has solemnly resolved that the President of the United States shall proclaim an honorary citizenship for the citizen of another country and in joining me to perform this happy duty the Congress gives Sir Winston Churchill a distinction shared only with the Marquis de Lafayette.

In proclaiming him an honorary citizen, I only propose a formal recognition of the place he has long since won in the history of freedom and in the affections of my-and now his--fellow countrymen.

Whenever and wherever tyranny threatened, he has always championed liberty. Facing firmly toward the future, he has never forgotten the past. Serving six monarchs of his native Great Britain, he has served all men's freedom and dignity.

In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone--and most men save Englishmen despaired of England's life--he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The incandescent quality of his words illuminated the courage of his countrymen.

Indifferent himself to danger, he wept over the sorrows of others. A child of the House of Commons, he became its father. Accustomed to the hardships of battle, he has no distaste for pleasure.

Now his stately ship of life, having weathered the severest storms of a troubled century is anchored in tranquil waters, proof that courage and faith and zest for freedom are truly indestructible. The record of his triumphant passage will inspire free hearts all over the globe.

By adding his name to our rolls, we mean to honor him--but his acceptance honors us far more. For no statement or proclamation can enrich his name now--the name Sir Winston Churchill is already legend.

[At this point the President signed and read the proclamation, as follows:]

By the President of the United States of America a Proclamation:

WHERSAS Sir Winston Churchill, a son of America though a subject of Britain, has been throughout his life a firm and steadfast friend of the American people and the American nation; and

WHEREAS he has freely offered his hand and his faith in days of adversity as well as triumph; and

WHEREAS his bravery, charity and valor, both in war and in peace, have been a flame of inspiration in freedom's darkest hour; and

WHEREAS his life has shown that no adversary can overcome, and no fear can deter, free men in the defense of their freedom; and

WHEREAS he has expressed with unsurpassed power and splendor the aspirations of peoples everywhere for dignity and freedom: and

WHEREAS he has by his art as an historian and his judgment as a statesman made the past the servant of the future;


President of the United States of America, under the authority contained in an Act of the 88th Congress, do hereby declare Sir Winston Churchill an honorary citizen of the United States of America.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-seventh.

[At this point the President was handed a letter from Sir Winston by the British Ambassador, Sir David Ormsby-Gore. The President then resumed speaking.]

I would ask Mr. Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston's son who is accompanied by Sir Winston's grandson, Winston Churchill, to read the letter.

Mr. Randolph Churchill: Mr. President, Members of Congress and the United States Government, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen [reading]:

"Mr. President, I have been informed by Mr. David Bruce that it is your intention to sign a Bill conferring upon me Honorary Citizenship of the United States.

"I have received many kindness' from the United States of America, but the honour which you now accord me is without parallel. I accept it with deep gratitude and affection.

"I am also most sensible of the warmhearted action of the individual States who accorded me the great compliment of their own honorary citizenship's as a prelude to this Act of Congress.

"It is a remarkable comment on our affairs that the former Prime Minister of a great sovereign state should thus be received as an honorary citizen of another. I say 'great sovereign state' with design and emphasis, for I reject the view that Britain and the Commonwealth should now be relegated to a tame and minor role in the world. Our past is the key to our future, which I firmly trust and believe will be no less fertile and glorious. Let no man underrate our energies, our potentialities and our abiding power for good.

"I am, as you know, half American by blood, and the story of my association with that mighty and benevolent nation goes back nearly ninety years to the day of my Father's marriage. In this century of storm and tragedy I contemplate with high satisfaction the constant factor of the interwoven and upward progress of our peoples. Our comradeship and our brotherhood in war were unexampled. We stood together, and because of that fact the free world now stands. Nor has our partnership any exclusive nature: the Atlantic community is a dream that can well be fulfilled to the detriment of none and to the enduring benefit and honour of the great democracies.

"Mr. President, your action illuminates the theme of unity of the English-speaking peoples, to which I have devoted a large part of my life. I would ask you to accept yourself, and to convey to both Houses of Congress, and through them to the American people, my solemn and heartfelt thanks for this unique distinction, which will always be proudly remembered by my descendants.


[At this point the President introduced George Ball, Acting Secretary of State.]

Mr. Ball: Mr. President, I hand you an honorary citizen's passport for Sir Winston. This is the only document of its kind in existence and is a unique document for a unique citizen.

[The President handed the document to Mr. Randolph Churchill.]

Mr. Churchill: Thank you very much.

Note: The ceremony was held at 3 p.m. in the Flower Garden at the White House after which President and Mrs. Kennedy held a reception in the East Room. Among the more than 250 guests were diplomats, Members of Congress, Government officials, and close friends of Sir Winston, including Bernard M. Baruch, and the President's father Joseph P. Kennedy, former Ambassador to Great Britain.

The program, which was carried on television in the United States and telecast to Europe by way of the Relay communications satellite, was seen by Sir Winston and Lady Churchill in their London home.

The act authorizing the President to proclaim Sir Winston Churchill an honorary citizen of the United States was approved by the President just prior to the ceremony (77 Stat. 5).

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Upon Signing Proclamation Conferring Honorary Citizenship on Sir Winston Churchill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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