Starr brings historian, author to Waco

Dr. Andrew Roberts came to McLennan Community College to speak on his book, and was later interviewed by former Baylor University President Ken Starr. Photo courtesy of McLennan Community College

Dr. Andrew Roberts revered Winston Churchill as the last great leader in the western world when he visited McLennan Community College on Wednesday in front of a nearly sold out crowd to talk about his book, “Churchill: Walking with Destiny”, thanks in no small part to the man who interviewed him after the presentation, former Baylor President Ken Starr.

Roberts, who is a visiting professor at the War Studies Department of King’s College, London, has written 13 books and has been traveling all over Texas promoting his Churchill biography this week. Roberts estimates that this is the 1,010th biography on the former British Prime Minister, according to an interview he did with the Waco Tribune-Herald.

“In the last 10 years, there have been an avalanche of new sources about Winston Churchill,” Roberts said. “One might have though that everything that needed to be said about Churchill has already been said, but that’s not the case.”

Roberts’ book his reached worldwide critical acclaim and was a New York Times best seller. The Times also said the book “must surely be the best single-volume biography about Churchill yet written.”

Roberts attributed the success of the book in part to the fact that he was the first of the Churchill biographers to be granted permission by Queen Elizabeth II to use her father, King George VI’s, diaries documenting Churchill’s time as Prime Minister and their weekly conferences during World War II. Dr. David J. White, a senior lecturer in classics, noted the sources that Roberts used as a definitive point of emphasis in the book.

“It was just so wonderful to hear his insight especially considering the historical sources that he has been able to read that had not been available,” White said. “It really gave us a fuller picture of Churchill and the war and Churchill’s conduct to the war.”

One of Churchill’s characteristics that Roberts pointed out was his connection to America. Born to an American mother, Churchill always had an affinity towards the United States, especially in wartime.

“He loved America,” Roberts said. “Once he visited ordinary Americans, he fell in love with ordinary Americans.”

Roberts stressed Churchill’s ties with America during World War II, calling him the “glue” of the so-called “Big Three” of the Allies, making him still relevant today to many Americans.

“Churchill, more than any other single individual, helped save western civilization from barbarism,” Starr said. “He is the greatest friend of freedom of the 20th century.”

Starr, who now assists the mock trial team at Waco High School as well as the Presidential Scholars program at MCC, still resides in Waco after being fired from Baylor in 2016.

“[My wife and I] love Waco and we love Baylor,” Starr said. “I was involved with MCC throughout my years at Baylor, so we’re community volunteers.”

Roberts also pointed out that Churchill’s popularity was actually aided by his up and down political career and how he recovered from many failures. Although Starr’s downfall at Baylor was not directly comparable to Churchill’s missteps, he said he sees why the public respected Churchill more because of it.

“Well Churchill was a person of great moral courage,” Starr said. “He knew his duty was to stay firm, stand firm, and to be a voice in the wilderness.”

The presentation concluded with Roberts being presented with his very own cowboy hat as a memento for his trip across Texas.