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Washington - War-era British prime minister Winston Churchill earned a lasting place in the US Capitol where his bust was unveiled Wednesday, as rock icon Roger Daltrey sang “we won't get fooled again.”
“The best friend that the United States ever had,” is how House Speaker John Boehner described the statesman who spoke to a joint session of Congress in 1941 just 19 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor and called on America to stand firm in the face of war.
It was one of three addresses to Congress, more than any other foreign dignitary, by Churchill, who held a lifelong love affair with the United States - his mother was American Ä and was made an honorary citizen by president John F. Kennedy in 1963.
“He understood the United States better, sometimes, than we understood ourselves,” Secretary of State John Kerry told hundreds of guests in National Statuary Hall, where the Churchill bust joined statues of several famous Americans.
The premier's powerful oratory, Kerry said, “literally rescued the world.”
In 1946 Churchill gave remarks that later became known as his “Iron Curtain” speech at a small college in Fulton, Missouri.
At Wednesday's ceremony, Daltrey, lead singer of iconic British rock group The Who, sang their classic “We Won't Get Fooled Again” as well as Ben E. King's “Stand By Me,” altering the final stanza to reflect the “shoulder-to-shoulder” alliance between Britain and the United States.
“It sits here in me,” Daltrey told AFP as he tapped his chest, recalling how he was born in the midst of a 1944 German air raid in London.
Despite the British burning of the US Capitol in 1814, Churchill's grandson Nicholas Soames said the late leader loved the structure.
“He thought this building was a kind of center of the universe, really, apart from his own country,” said Soames, a longtime British MP.
As for the latest row between America and Europe, over US surveillance, Soames dismissed it as a petty squabble.
“Everyone spies on everyone else,” he said, adding that Churchill would have reacted the same.
“He'd have thought that you have to do what you have to do to keep your country safe.”