Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a ceremony commemorating the dedication of the bust of Winston Churchill. Following are Sen. McConnell's remarks delivered during the ceremony, which took place in Statuary Hall, in the U.S. Capitol:
"Winston Churchill has been called the greatest Englishman of his time. And because his influence was most powerfully felt in the period surrounding the two world wars, we usually think of that time as the middle of the 20th century.
"But it's important to remember, I think, that this great man of the 20th century was actually born in the middle of the Victorian era, less than a decade after Lincoln was shot. And that by the time the 19th century had turned into the 20th, he was already well acquainted with loss, practiced in war, and accomplished in letters he was a man, in other words, who was already well on his way to becoming the great figure we all admire; and whose achievements we have come here to celebrate in this hall of national memory.
"So yes, Churchill was an incomparable war-time leader and orator -- among the finest in all of Western history. But he was also a witness, chronicler and participant in countless other world-changing events, for nearly a century. And one of his great preoccupations throughout his very long life was us.
"Winston Churchill's connection to the United States was not based simply on the exigencies of war or the happy circumstance of his lineage; in addition to these things, it was based firmly on vast personal experience, long observation, deep learning, and even deeper friendships. And as we prepare to place his likeness in the Capitol, it's worthwhile to remember that as well.
"The first of Churchill's many visits here came in 1898, at the age of 20, when he and a friend stopped in New York on their way to Cuba, where they had decided to join the Spanish side of an uprising there, mostly for the fun of it. Clearly, this was before the days of the X-Box. It was during that visit that Churchill recorded his first impressions of the United States. In a letter to his brother, he wrote, "This is a very great country, my dear Jack.' He then expounded admiringly on the practicality and efficiency of the people he encountered here, marveled at the energy and youthfulness he saw all around him; and criticized the press.
"But the main point, I think, is that Churchill seemed to see even then the boundless potential of an alliance between our two nations. And it's a conviction that only deepened as the momentous events of the 20th century unfolded.
"Many books have been written, many by Churchill himself, on the contours and progress of that special relationship over the next five decades, and the seismic political, social, and economic changes that took place in both countries during that time.
"But one thing did not change -- and that was Churchill's deep affection for, and confidence in, the United States. Indeed, it is striking, when one considers the sheer breadth of Churchill's experience and learning in a lifetime spent at the forefront of world events, to think that the final piece of advice he offered his advisors, just before leaving 10 Downing Street for the very last time, was to remain close to the United States. According to one account, it happened like this: just moments before the 80-year old Churchill was driven off to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to the Queen, he turned to the various non-cabinet officials that he had summoned to see him off, and told them, simply, "Never be separated from the Americans'.
"Much has changed since that day in 1955. But the wisdom of that counsel has not. May these two great nations, which Winston Churchill loved so deeply and whose democratic values he cherished, and so ably defended, always adhere to it."