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Churchill seminar offers students unique look at history

A handful of UCPS students have a round-table discussion with Wofford College professor Robert Jeffrey about Winston Churchill’s book, “My Early Life.”

Some Union County Public Schools students recently took advantage of a unique opportunity to study the life of Winston Churchill, a system-wide seminar slated to become an annual learning tool for local students.
Monroe, Marvin Ridge, Forest Hills, Piedmont, Porter Ridge, Union County Early College, and Weddington High Schools sent a total of about 100 students for the daylong seminar Monday March 30, 2009, presented by the Churchill Centre based in Chicago and the Churchill Society of North Carolina.
“This event is to promote the study of history through the life of, who I consider, to be one of the greatest people of all time, the greatest man of the 20th Century – Winston Churchill,” said Craig Horn, president of the Churchill Society of North Carolina.
“These students are my children and my grandchildren’s future,” Horn said, about the UCPS high school students in attendance. “I’m going to do everything I can to give them an appreciation for what’s ahead by giving them an appreciation of what’s been behind.”

The seminar featured the segments titled, “The Early Years: 1874–1939,” led by Dr. Robert Jeffrey, a professor of government at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC; “The Climactic Years: 1939–1965,” led by Dr. Robert Whalen, a history professor at Queens University in Charlotte; and a special guest appearance by USAF Col. J. Quincy Collins Jr., a Viet Nam veteran and former prisoner of war who shared a cell with the 2008 U.S. presidential candidate John McCain.
“Col. Collins was a prisoner of war in Hanoi for seven years,” Horn said. “He’s living proof of Churchill’s motto ‘Never give up, never give in.’ It’s an opportunity for students to meet someone who has looked death in the face and through that kind of danger, who has believed in themselves, hung in there. That’s the message we want to give to kids. You’ve got to stand up for what you believe is right, and do what you think is the right thing to do. Sometimes it’s tough. It’s a whole lot easier to give up than to stand up. Quincy personifies that.”

During lunch, most of the students were treated to “The Gathering Storm,” an HBO film about Winston Churchill, starring Albert Finney as Churchill and Vanessa Redgrave, who portrayed his wife, Clementine Churchill.
At the same time, a small group of honors students had an opportunity to discuss Churchill’s book, “My Early Life,” in a round-table discussion with Wofford College professor Robert Jeffrey.
“I don’t normally get a chance to talk to high school kids,” Jeffrey said. “I hope students take away an interest in Churchill that will lead them to read more about him or some of his work. You can learn a lot about the 20th century through a study of him. He’s fun.”

Teachers weren’t left out of the learning experience. They were invited to a round-table discussion of  “We Shall Not Fail,” a book written by Celia Sandys, Churchill’s granddaughter. Dr. Robert Billinger, a history professor at Wingate University, led this discussion.

“For the first time out, I think it’s a pretty good turnout, and going very well,” said Stacy Moore, the UCPS high school social studies curriculum coordinator who worked in conjunction with The Churchill Society of North Carolina and The Churchill Centre based in Chicago to coordinate the event. “We’ve started talking about next year; how we can bring more of a global focus.”
A by-product of the seminar, Moore said, was to introduce students to professors from area colleges participating the event; Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, Wingate University in Wingate, and Queens University in Charlotte.

Horn said he hoped students took away some of Churchill’s philosophies. “As Churchill used to say, ‘The singular key to success is perseverance,” Horn said. “Never give up and never give in on anything great or small, large or petty, except to notions of good sense and honor.”
Horn also used the seminar as an opportunity to stress with students the importance of history. “Churchill was once asked by an American high school student about the secret of his success. He told him, ‘Study history, for in it lies all the secrets of statecraft. And that’s the message we want to get across.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 03, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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