"History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with the pale gleams the passion of the former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor," said Sir Winston Churchill, who both wrote and made history.
Like his World War II colleague and sometime antagonist, Charles de Gaulle, Churchill understood that a sound future can be built only on sound foundations. Both men led their countries back from collapse. Both read widely in history. "Don't ask me who's influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he's digested, and I've been reading all my life," said de Gaulle, who became the President of the Fifth French Republic.
When on June 18, 1940, de Gaulle spoke to the French people from London after the collapse of French resistance to the Nazi invasion on the continent, the Free French leader showed he understood the direction of history:
"The leaders who, for many years, were at the head of French armies, have formed a government. This government, alleging our armies to be undone, agreed with the enemy to stop fighting. Of course, we were subdued by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which made us retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point to bring them there where they are today.
"But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!
"Believe me, I speak to you with full knowledge of the facts and tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us to a day of victory. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of United States.
"This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not finished by the battle of France. This war is a world wide war. All the faults, all the delays, all the suffering, do not prevent there to be, in the world, all the necessary means to one day crush our enemies. Vanquished today by mechanical force, we will be able to overcome in the future by a superior mechanical force.
The destiny of the world is here. I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who would come there, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the special workers of armament industries who are located in British territory or who would come there, to put themselves in contact with me.
Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance not must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.
American intervention in World War II eventually saved both England and France. But it did not save British and French leaders from quarreling. DeGaulle commented: '"When I am right, I get angry. Churchill gets angry when he is wrong. We are angry at each other much of the time."
The legacy of American history has preoccupied The Lehrman Institute since its founding by Lewis E. Lehrman. The Lehrman Institute itself has initiated a number of projects concerning the work and Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. These include the funding of five web sites on Mr. Lincoln, now the responsibility of The Lincoln Institute:
Mr. Lincoln's White House
Mr. Lincoln & Friends
Mr. Lincoln & New York
Mr. Lincoln & Freedom
Mr. Lincoln & the Founders
Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom
During the late 1980s, Mr. Lehrman and Richard Gilder, a New York City investment manager and philanthropist, developed a series of projects to recognize excellence in historical scholarship and promote excellence in teaching of American history. Those projects include the Gilder Lehrman Collection of historical documents, now on deposit at the New-York Historical Society; the Lincoln Prize of the Lincoln & Soldiers Institute, the Gilder Lehrman Center on Slavery, Resistance & Abolition at Yale University and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which among other programs trains teachers in the use in the classroom of original historical documents.