In Newfoundland, Where Churchill And FDR Met During WWII In Placentia Bay the two western leaders issued the Atlantic Charter in August 1941

NEWFOUNDLAND, Canada, (a few years ago)- Looking outside, at the Ocean on that windy day, I thought again about my “mission” in Eastern Canada. I had been sent as a “US Speaker”, by USIA, the agency that was in charge of “public diplomacy” in those days. I was there to explain to my Canadian audiences, (mostly university students and faculty), the future of European American relations, the continuing relevance of the Atlantic Alliance and the future of its military arm.

It was the Fall of 1989 –the year of miracles– just a few days after the Berlin Wall had fallen. How would America and Europe adjust to the remarkable changes in East-West relations?

As I was reflecting on all this, suddenly, a realization. “It all started here, right here —I thought— in Placentia Bay, just off the coast of Newfoundland!” Indeed, it was right there, in the waters of Newfoundland, that Winston Churchill, who had sailed from Britain on the HMS Prince of Wales, met with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in August 1941, in the most difficult days of WWII.

It was right there that the two leaders issued the “Atlantic Charter”, a document that outlined the principles of freedom that would guide the two western democracies in the conduct of their international relations during the war and after.

And it was that spirit that was followed, years later, in 1949,  when some countries in Europe along with the US and Canada, decided to create the Atlantic Alliance, or NATO, as most call it.

And I had a sense of the noble ideals that inspired the founders when I saw, at NATO’s Headquarters in Brussels, the large Latin inscription on the wall of the North Atlantic Council Main Council Room: “ANIMUS IN CONSULENDO LIBER“, “With a Free Spirit, We Deliberate”; or, “In Discussion a Free Mind”. It really conveys the idea that in that place free people freely discuss their future.

And there I was, in Newfoundland, in those momentous days at the end of November 1989, looking at the waters in which the first meeting of Western solidarity had taken place.

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