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Mrs. Thatcher followed a tough act: Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, the last previous British prime minister to address a joint session of Congress, did so three times -- in 1941, 1943, and 1952. His last such speech, delivered Feb. 17, 1952, when he was 77 years old, was considered a rhetorical marvel, but reactions to it were mixed. His suggestion that the US cooperate with Britain in holding the Suez Canal brought a chill warmed only by admiration for his skills as a speaker.

Churchill spoke from notes, adding and elucidating as he found his voice. Sir Winston sounded a warning to Communist China: Any tinkering with the Korean truce would be met with ``prompt, resolute, and effective'' retaliation by the United Nations. It was learned later that Britain threatened to go so far as to withdraw its recognition of Communist China.

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Churchill expressed more sympathy for the US State Department's Far East policy than had the Labour government that held power before his final term as Tory prime minister. His characterization of Moscow as a greater threat to world peace than any enemy of World War II may have reminded some of his words before the 1943 joint session of Congress. Then he spoke sympathetically of Russia as bearing the brunt of German attacks and declared that the US and Britain should and would come to her aid.

Memories of World War II were still strong as Churchill admitted Britain should have followed US advice and secured an all-around settlement of war obligations from British allies before accepting a postwar loan from the US. He did not beg for American aid but cited the common purpose that Britain shared with the US.

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