GERALD BEPKO Commentary: This is no time to fear traveling

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Last month my wife, Jean, and I had the pleasure of joining another Indiana University Alumni Travelers voyage superbly planned by Alumni Travel Director Joan Curts and Gohagen Travel. In company with an agreeable and stimulating group of IU and Boston University alumni, we visited the Cotswolds in England, near where we had lived 27 years earlier when on sabbatical leave at Oxford.

Tourism seems alive and well in the United Kingdom, but there is concern that current tourist volume reflects travel plans made before this summer’s London terrorist attacks. American tourists now planning for next year, mindful of the renewed threat of terror, may decide to stay home or go elsewhere.

This concern didn’t lower United Kingdom prices, which seem reasonable until you convert them into dollars. In Bath, a small cup of Starbucks decaf was 1.45 pounds sterling, which converts to $2.57.

This concern did seem to encourage British tourism professionals to be even more eager to please. And it also brought into focus a deeper message the British seem especially able to convey: We cannot allow terrorism to create fear, turn us inward, or impair friendships and alliances.

These thoughts were brought home with special force when we visited Blenheim Palace, the site of the birth, marriage and burial of Winston Churchill. This is the 40th anniversary of Churchill’s death and a time to recall his role in the 20th century as an exemplar of courage and determination in the face of forces of darkness.

We were hosted at Blenheim, and at the Churchill gravesite, by Winston Churchill’s cousin, Lord Charles Spencer Churchill. Lord Charles thanked us for making the voyage and continuing to support the British, as Americans always have.

He said he thought his cousin Winston, if alive today, would be outspoken in fighting terrorism. And he would be committed to standing with Americans in protecting the values that have enlightened the world.

While there may be sharp differences of opinion among the British over tactics and intermediate goals, just as there are in the United States, there is much less doubt about the overall need to use all means at our disposal-diplomatic, economic and military-to combat the movements and conditions that spawn global terrorism. In the process, citizens must go about their business and pursue their enjoyments without allowing terrorism to frighten them into distortions.

Lord Charles gave us a little book he inscribed, titled, “The Quotable Churchill.” Using Winston Churchill’s words, he emphasized the constancy of the British in the face of danger. Sir Winston said, “The maxim of the British people is, ‘Business as usual’.” British culture holds that “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities … because it is the quality that guarantees all others.” And about those who choose to not stand up to injustice he reminded that, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile-hoping it will eat him last.”

There is not only courage but vision in “The Quotable Churchill.” Lord Charles concluded his gravesite comments with this quote from Sir Winston: “If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another, and science will do for them all they wish and more than they can dream.”

It is easy to see how Winston Churchill’s combination of courage and vision helped save freedom and democracy in the middle of the 20th century. And it’s likely that this combination, if taken to heart, would be equally useful today.

Bepko is IUPUI chancellor emeritus and Indiana University trustees’ professor at IUPUI. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at

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