WASHINGTON -- Winston Churchill wore a bow-tie when he addressed Congress in the Senate chamber on the day after Christmas 1941. He was not there to plead but to praise.
The British prime minister stated that the United States had "drawn the sword for freedom" and has "thrown away the scabbard".
Livestream Wednesday saw the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speak to U.S. legislators from the middle of a conflict zone in Kyiv. He was dressed in a T-shirt in fatigues and a backdrop of a Ukrainian flag with a white wall.
Zelenskyy did not appear in the House chamber where foreign leaders usually give addresses, but was broadcast from an underground auditorium at the Capitol Visitor Center. Zelenskyy showed footage of bomb-devastated and dead Ukrainians to provoke America.
In remarks addressed to Congress and President Joe Biden, he stated that he urged them to "do more".
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) stated that "it had to be the most uncommon address by a foreign leader in Congress."
Despite their differences, the parallels between Churchill & Zelenskyy were obvious for lawmakers trying to place Wednesday's extraordinary conference in historical context. This was not just because the Ukrainian president invoked Pearl Harbor's attack that forced the U.S. into World War II.
Many of them stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin's search for westward expansion has helped Zelenskyy play the role of an updated version of the British Prime Minister who led the European resistance against Hitler.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who has a doctorate on British history, said that the Ukrainians now have a leader who is almost Churchillian. He praised Zelenskyy's courage and determination. "Americans respond positively to that."
Zelenskyy called on legislators to lobby businesses in their districts to withdraw from Russia. He also wants America to create a no fly zone over Russia or to allow the transfer of surface-to-air missiles and jets from Western countries to Ukraine.
The former request is not on the table for most lawmakers. However, Biden and other legislators see the risk of no fly zone enforcement escalating into direct conflict with Russia. Russia has substantial support from both sides.
"We should give to him the goddamned airplanes," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif). "The guy is addressing Congress wearing fatigues. He could be hit with a bomb at any moment. He is fighting for freedom, and he needs more tools to help him.
Zelenskyy is not the only foreign leader who has to address Congress from a country that is in danger. Zelenskyy is not the only president of Ukraine to address Congress in the past decade. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in 2014, stood before the House and begged lawmakers to resist Putin who had annexed Crimea (a Ukrainian peninsula that extends into the Black Sea).
Poroshenko stated to Congress that Ukraine cannot win the war with blankets.
According to the Office of the House historian, Zelenskyy's Wednesday speech was the 124th occasion that a foreign leader addressed the House or Senate. Few have spoken to lawmakers when their countries were at war, and none from an area under attack.
A combination of ongoing European war and admiration from U.S. leaders for Zelenskyy has made him a Churchill for livestream era, even though the threat of full engagement between Russia's and Western powers is not yet realized.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Wednesday that "This is an historic moment." For historical comparison, Zelenskyy could be compared to Winston Churchill while Biden is FDR.