The ESU Kansas City Branch hosted a successful and well-attended lecture program from the Evelyn Wrench Lecture Series with the acclaimed author and historian, Jonathan Rose, Professor of History at Drew University. The lecture was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus at Grant Hall on Wednesday, September 24, 2014. The free lecture was open to the public, educators and all students in the Kansas City Metro Area.
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The ESU Kansas City Branch and the Theatre, English and History Departments of the University of Missouri-Kansas City co-sponsored this free lecture program. Co-sponsors were Professor Thomas Mardikes, Chair of UMKC Theatre; Professor Felicia Londré, Curators' Professor of Theatre; Professor Virginia Blanton, Co-Chair of the English Department; Professor Jennifer Phegley, Co-Chair of the English Department and Professor John Herron, Chair of the History Department. The lecture was funded in part by a grant from the Bernardin Haskell Lecture Fund at the UMKC College of Arts & Sciences.
A reception was held at Grant Hall on the UMKC campus prior to the lecture. The catered reception featured a variety of hors d'oeuvres and beverages. The reception was at 6:00 pm and the lecture at 6:30 pm.
A special early afternoon event was scheduled for students from the Theatre, History and English Departments at UMKC as well as students from area high schools who were invited to attend an informal discussion group with Professor Rose. This gave the students an opportunity to discuss Rose's book in a more personal setting. The students thoroughly enjoyed this unique opportunity to speak on a one-on-one basis with such a noted professor, author and historian.
The formal lecture began at 6:30 pm with approximately 100 in attendance. Professor Rose based his talk on his new biography, The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor. He introduced a Winston Churchill not known before and traced the profound influence of literature and theater on Churchill's carefully composed grand story as well as on the decisions he made throughout his political life.
Rose identified an array of authors who shaped Churchill's writings and politics, from George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells to Margaret Mitchell, George Orwell and Oscar Wilde. He investigated the effect of Churchill's passion for theater on his writing and perhaps most remarkably, he revealed the influence of Churchill's reading on every important episode of his public life, including his championship of social reform, plans for the Gallipoli invasion, command during the Blitz, crusade for Zionism, and efforts to prevent a nuclear arms race.
Rose traced the significance of Churchill's writings to later politicians, among them President John F. Kennedy as he struggled with the Cuban Missile Crisis. In his recent book review for The Times, London, Lawrence James wrote: "Jonathan Rose… has shown how Churchill excelled in the application of language to the exercise of power and concludes that he 'modelled his politics on literature.' The proof is abundant and well presented in this excellent, thorough and enjoyable biography that adds a fresh and fascinating dimension to a great statesman."
At the end of the lecture, Rose had a lively Q&A with the audience for about 20 minutes. The audience was thoroughly engaged with his in-depth knowledge of Churchill. Following the Q&A, Professor Rose signed his books, took photos with guests and answered additional questions from a very enthusiastic group in the lobby of Grant Hall auditorium.
An after-lecture dinner party was scheduled for Professor Rose and 16 invited guests including ESU members, their guests and the co-sponsors to the lecture program at the Grand Street Café. It was a delightful evening of conversation, great food and a memorable conclusion to a long but very satisfying day for Professor Rose. As a token of appreciation for Professor Rose's visit to Kansas City, Jeff Schnabel, ESU KC president, presented Professor Rose a book about KC area native and former U.S. president, Harry Truman.
The book, titled "The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman" was written by military historian D.M. Giangreco. Schnabel pointed out the book's connection to the ESU Kansas City Branch—Lt. Col. Marvin H. Gates, a prominent commanding officer in WWI who was from the Kansas City, Mo. Army National Guard, played a major role in the war effort, particularly in France. Under Gates' command was Captain Harry Truman.
Gates' major war effort was detailed throughout the book. As the war was winding down in the latter part of 1918, Gates had learned about a non-profit organization called The English Speaking Union which had just been founded in London in 1918 and was impressed with its Mission. Two years after Lt. Col. Gates returned to Kansas City, he learned that same organization had formed a New York City Headquarters in 1920. Marvin H. Gates felt so strongly about the ESU and its Mission and goals, he obtained permission from ESU New York Headquarters to form a Kansas City Branch of the ESU that same year and thus, became its first president…and the rest is history.
Professor Rose was delighted to receive this WWI history book which had such strong ties to the Kansas City Branch of the ESU.
About Author and Historian Jonathan Rose
Jonathan Rose, Ph.D., is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History, Drew University. He received his B.A. cum laude from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He was founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing and is co-editor of the journal Book History. His numerous publications include the critically acclaimed book, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, named a Book of the Year (2001) by the Economist magazine. His most recent book is The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor (Yale University Press, May, 2014), which is garnering rave reviews. Among his many fellowships is one in 1978 from the English-Speaking Union. He lives in Morristown, New Jersey.