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On June 16, 1941, an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Rochester was conferred on Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the institution’s 91st commencement ceremony. Churchill, who was in London, accepted the degree in a ten minute radio address that was broadcast both to the 2,500 strong audience at the Eastman Theatre as well as across the United States through  the coordinated efforts of the BBC, National Broadcasting Corporation and WHAM radio in Rochester. In the speech, which was scheduled for 5:45 pm in Britain, Churchill referred to Britain as the “Old Lion” and spoke of the kinship of the British and American nations. He declared, “United we stand. Divided we fall. Divided the dark ages return. United we can guide and save the world.” The audience in the crowded theatre in Rochester, according to The History of the University of Rochester 1850–1962, “applauded the remarks for quite as long as the incomparable Briton had spoken.” Five months later Churchill formally received the degree in a ceremony at 10 Downing Street in which the British Minister in Washington, Noel Hall, placed the hood on the prime minister and handed him the parchment. Hall had attended the June 16th ceremony and brought the hood and parchment from Rochester.

Churchill’s “Old Lion” speech can be heard here on the University of Rochester’s web site.

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