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Fighting Words: Churchill's Granddaughter Offers a Model for Leadership

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“If you are going to go through hell, keep going.” This is just one of the many robust adages coined by Sir Winston Churchill during World War II.

A new exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum called “Churchill:  The Power of Words,” which showcased his long, celebrated career as a statesman, writer, and orator, opened on Friday.

Churchill's inspirational speeches and radio broadcasts helped to guide England from its darkest to its finest hour during the long years of fighting and the constant threat of attack and invasion by the Nazi forces.

As noted by the journalist Edward R. Murrow in an introduction to Churchill's collected speeches: "Now the hour had come for him to mobilize the English language, and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world.”

The exhibition at the Morgan kicked off with a lecture by Churchill’s granddaughter, The Hon. Celia Sandys, who has written extensively about him.

During the talk, Sandys asserted that Churchill’s combination of clarity, command, courage and charisma make him a much-needed model for leadership in our own dark times. Indeed, she pointed out that a renewed interest in Churchill began at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as world leaders looked for ways to console and inspire their citizens.

The Sandys talk also included a video of iconic Churchillian moments in war and peace, accompanied by examples of some of his most vivid utterances, and the purposeful, magnetic voice that bound a nation together.

The lecture is part of the Winston Churchill Literary Series, a program of The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, and The Writing Center at Hunter College. Sandys was introduced at the Morgan by the series patron, Tina Santi Flaherty.

Click on the link above to hear the talk. "Churchill: The Power of Words" runs at the Morgan through September 23.

Bons Mots from Sandys

On Churchill’s integrity: “Even today ... you can listen to my grandfather’s words without ever wondering, ‘What on earth did he mean by that?’”

On the fact that Churchill employed no speech writers: “Modern leaders’ speeches often betray their origins in committee.”

On Churchill as inspiration: “It’s been said that Hitler could persuade you that he could do anything, but Churchill could convince you that you could do anything."

Bons Mots from Churchill

On assessing historical events (in light of a military failure): “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

On the need for good intelligence: “Facts are better than dreams.”

On his own reputation as a bon vivant: “I am a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best.”