David Petraeus, Retired Four-Star General, Speaks at Westminster as Part of Churchill Fellows Weekend

Petraeus (left) and Riley (right) talk inside a jam-packed Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury Saturday afternoon. PHOTO BY JIM MALVEN.


Following Jon Meacham’s Kemper Lecture address, the Churchill Fellows Weekend continued with a conversation between National Churchill Museum Director Tim Riley and Gen. David H. Petraeus inside the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.

Petraeus, a former CIA director, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and former NATO International Security Force, served for more than 37 years in the U.S. Army and retired a highly decorated four-star general in 2011. He visited Westminster for the first time in 2006, when he spoke at the inaugural Hancock Symposium, then called the “Symposium for Democracy.”

On Saturday, Petraeus and Riley discussed current affairs, Petraeus’s military career and Sir Winston Churchill’s legacy and ideals. Petraeus praised Churchill for possessing a combination of studiousness, boldness and modesty, qualities, he said, that everyone should strive for.

“The culture of learning, the spirit of inquiry, the sheet zest for life that he displayed – but also a degree for reality and capacity for self-deprecating humor … these are the qualities that we need to rediscover,” he said. “I think all of these qualities are absolutely extraordinary and incredibly inspirational.”

When asked about Islamic terrorism, Petraeus said that the conflict “is more a clash within the Muslim world, a rift within a civilization, than between civilizations.”

“Alliances within Muslim countries are necessary to help and expel radicalism and hateful ideology,” he said.

He added, “Churchill was right; it is better to fight with allies than face war without them.”

Petraeus said that he is “doubly blessed” to have led both American officers in combat and national intelligence officers around the world.

“For me, I think that was sort of like standing on the beach was for Winston Churchill,” he said.

Following the interview, Petraeus signed autographs and has his photo taken in front of the “Breakthrough” Berlin Wall sculpture with “Breakthrough” creator and Churchill granddaughter Edwina Sandys, and the man who introduced Petraeus: retired Maj. Gen. and former NATO Joint Force Command Director of Operations Byron S. Bagby, a 1978 Westminster graduate.

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