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getty images (churchill) / istock (flag)

The 8 Honorary Citizens of the United States

getty images (churchill) / istock (flag)
getty images (churchill) / istock (flag)

Let’s say you’re not a citizen of the United States, but you want to be. But not so much that you’d apply for naturalization, which involves interviews, tests, biometrics screening, and oaths. Let’s say you just want it, but again, not so much that you’d want to actually vote in the U.S., or apply for a passport. In such a situation, what you want is called “honorary citizenship of the United States.” You want the U.S. to claim you, kind of, but not so much that we have to do anything for you, nor do you do anything in exchange. As the U.S. State Department puts it:

Honorary citizenship does not carry with it the rights and privileges of ordinary citizenship, and such status does not confer any special entry, travel or immigration benefits upon the honoree or the honoree’s relatives and dependants [sic, really]. It also does not impose additional duties or responsibilities, in the United States or internationally, on the honoree.

Such citizenship is granted by Congress and the president, and the Senate website hosts a complete roster of those who have been so honored. Here are the eight honorary citizens of the United States.

1. Winston Churchill

You probably know Churchill as the wartime prime minister of the United Kingdom, which is likely the reason why the United States bestowed honorary citizenship upon him. You might not know that he was also recipient of the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature, placing him (in the often unreliable eyes of the Nobel committee) alongside Yeats, Hemingway (who won it the following year), and Marquez.

2. Raoul Wallenberg

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The horror that was the Holocaust defies human imagination (except for the many humans responsible for it). Though Hungary fought alongside Germany in World War II and passed anti-Semitic laws, Jews of Hungary were largely spared the Holocaust. Once Hungary wavered in the Axis cause, however, Hitler ordered the country occupied. Hungarian Jews were rounded up and deported, and within one year, a half-million were murdered.

Raoul Wallenberg, a businessman, was sent to the Swedish Embassy in Hungary. His job was to issue 650 passports to Hungarian Jews with ties to Sweden, which would protect them from deportation. Upon arrival, Wallenberg took in the scope of the crisis and ramped up his operation. Through the creative issuance of diplomatic paperwork, he managed to protect thousands. When the fascists got wise to Wallenberg’s operation, they invalidated the paperwork, rounded up Jews, and forced them to walk to the Austrian border. Wallenberg, undeterred, followed behind in his car, and defying the guns pointed at him, provided food, water, and aid to those on the death march. He continued issuing his documents, finding some success. When the Soviets seized Budapest, Wallenberg was arrested as a spy. In 1981, there were reports that he was still alive in a Soviet prison, and so Congress passed a resolution making him an honorary American citizen to pressure the Soviets to reveal his whereabouts. As of today, it’s still unclear what happened to him, but according to the Soviets, he died in 1947.

3 and 4. William and Hannah Penn

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In 1984—more than three centuries after he founded the Pennsylvania Colony—William Penn was named an honorary citizen of the United States. His colony was notable in that it wasn’t the hell that many Puritan colonies were at the time. It was also notable for having eventually been led by his wife, Hannah, who picked up William’s slack when his health declined toward the end of his life. After he died in 1718, she continued running the Pennsylvania Colony for another eight years.

5. Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa and Churchill are the only two people to have been named honorary citizens of the United States during their own lifetimes. The Catholic nun is known for her work with the poor in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and is presently on the fast track to being declared a saint by the Church. For what it’s worth, one step in the Vatican’s canonization process used to be a hearing with the so-called “devil’s advocate,” whose role was to argue against a candidate’s beatification and canonization. The position was abolished in the 1980s, but the Vatican still seeks out opposing views. During the Vatican’s investigation of Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens testified as her de facto devil’s advocate. A frequent critic of Mother Teresa, Hitchens later said of the hearing that he “represented the devil pro bono.”

6. Marquis de Lafayette

There is a strong argument to be made that the United States would not exist without Lafayette. He was the French general who led divisions of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and who, according to the 2002 Joint Resolution granting him American citizenship, “secured the help of France to aid the United States’ colonists against Great Britain.” Later, after returning to France, he introduced the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” before the National Constituent Assembly. (He coauthored the document, which played an important role in the French Revolution, with Thomas Jefferson.) So important was he to the cause of American independence that when he died, the U.S. House and Senate draped their chambers in black.

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In 2016, Daveed Diggs (left) won a Tony for playing Lafayette (and Jefferson) in Hamilton.

7. Casimir Pulaski

U.S. National Archives

Like Lafayette, Casimir Pulaski was drawn to the cause of American independence from Great Britain, and set sail for North America to help fight for the Continental cause. He didn’t waste any time once he got here. Among his accomplishments: During the Battle of Brandywine, he led a cavalry charge that saved George Washington’s life; he was promoted to general; he organized a legion of mounted soldiers; and, while he was at it, wrote the book on cavalry tactics. (Today he is considered one of the fathers of the American cavalry.) By order of Congress, for nearly a century now October 11 has been celebrated as Pulaski Day in the United States. He was made an honorary citizen in 2009.

8. Bernardo de Galvez

In 1777, Col. Bernardo of Galvez was made interim governor of Louisiana, which was then under Spanish control. An enemy of the British, Galvez helped smuggle supplies to the Continentals by way of New Orleans, a port city. As governor of Louisiana, he also orchestrated a campaign against the Red Coats, defeating them in the Battles of Fort Bute and Baton Rouge. After being appointed general, he also won the Battle of Fort Charlotte, taking Mobile from the British. George Washington considered Galvez to be “a deciding factor in the outcome of the Revolutionary War,” according to the 2014 resolution declaring Galvez to be an honorary American citizen. He’s also the most recent recipient of the honor, meaning the threshold is pretty high. It might be easier just to go through Immigration Services.

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60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

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12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.


A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."


In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.


In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.


As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”


Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.


Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.


The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.


In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”


At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”


During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.


In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.


Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.


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