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Gorbachev To Speak at Site of Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ Address

May 4, 1992

FULTON, Mo. (AP) _ Forty-six years after Winston Churchill spoke here, warning that an ″iron curtain″ was descending across Europe, the man credited with raising that curtain will step up to the lectern in the same setting.

Mikhail Gorbachev is to speak Wednesday at Westminster College, where Churchill offered a metaphor for East-West tensions on March 5, 1946.

″We don’t know what he will say, of course, but the romantics love the whole scenario,″ said Warren Hollrah, Westminster’s Churchill archivist.

Scholars and Fulton residents hungry for poetic parallels to 1946 will be part of an overflow crowd of more than 15,000 on the campus midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. The speech also will have an international TV audience.

Churchill’s address was grandly titled ″The Sinews of Peace.″ It has come to be called ″the Iron Curtain speech.″ The former Soviet leader’s lecture is titled ″The River of Time and the Imperative of Action.″

Details of the first major speech of Gorbachev’s 13-day U.S. tour have been kept secret. But he hinted about his theme during an interview.

″I am in favor of a new role for America, a constructive and democratic role and a continued contribution to building new international relations,″ Gorbachev said.

He also said last week that Washington ″has to be reproached″ for not offering help more quickly to fledgling Eastern European democracies.

John Jameson, a student usher at Churchill’s speech, will be in the audience Wednesday.

″It sounds to me like he’s going to say the Cold War is all water over the dam, and challenge us on what we’re going to do about it,″ said Jameson, 70. ″And Gorbachev may have a suggestion or two.″

Scholars said Gorbachev, speaking through an interpreter, will be hard- pressed to match Churchill’s dramatic delivery.

″Gorbachev following Churchill is like Jay Leno following Johnny Carson. Both are great, but one paved the way,″ said Max Okenfuss, an associate professor of history at Washington University in St. Louis.

The speech’s delivery date is another factor in how it will be received. Britain’s World War II prime minister spoke just months after the war’s conclusion, while Gorbachev arrives in Fulton 2 1/2 years after the Berlin Wall’s collapse.

Charles Timberlake, a University of Missouri history professor, said Gorbachev should acknowledge the history that happened on his watch, while looking ahead.

″The Cold War has already ended. We all know it’s over. When all the work is done, we celebrate with some champagne. This is the champagne,″ Timberlake said.

Westminster is fixing a ham feast similar to the meal savored by Churchill between puffs on his cigar. Afterward, Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, are to tour the school’s memorial to the late British prime minister.

They will also visit the Church of St. Mary, Aldermanbury, a restored 12th- century church transplanted brick-by-brick from London to Fulton after being devastated by Nazi bombs.

Gorbachev is to speak on a plaza outside the church, near a sculpture carved by Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys, from sections of the toppled Berlin Wall.

″Gorbachev was the lead player two years ago in razing the wall,″ said Robert McIntosh, 67, a student during Churchill’s visit. ″We need to hear his hopes, especially because the situation in Eastern Europe is so chaotic.″

The school will pay Gorbachev $3,000, the same stipend paid to Churchill. In two previous trips abroad since leaving office, Gorbachev reportedly was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak in Japan and Germany.

This trip is sponsored by the Gorbachev Foundation-USA, a San Francisco offshoot of Gorbachev’s Moscow think tank. Its goals are to analyze events in the former Soviet Union and to encourage peaceful, democratic change.

Robert Roddy, 72, who greeted Churchill as Westminster’s student body president, said Gorbachev’s speech can outline an agenda of ideas on which the foundation - and the world - may act.

″They’re going to need a lot of patience,″ Roddy said of the emerging democracies, ″and an awful lot of help.″