The exhibition Churchill: The Power of Words runs at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York until 23rd September. As its name suggests the display has at its heart Churchill’s own words, his letters, writings and speeches, but what words has it in turn inspired? We have been fortunate to receive some excellent and varied press and publicity.
Certainly the journalists seemed compelled to adopt a grander rhetorical style, perhaps partly in homage and partly in a spirit of professional competition. Thus the New York Times opened with the phrase: “The orotund proclamations will be unavoidable at the new exhibition…” while the Wall Street Journal opined that, “Sir Winston Churchill’s rhetorical triumphs were eloquently moving – bending the arc of history as nobody did before him – but they were also no less meticulously crafted than any stanza fellow Pulitzer Prize recipient Robert Frost penned.”
The New Yorker provided a wonderful pen portrait of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, struggling with this very dilemma as he prepared his speech for the opening event. “Johnson puzzled over his page again, thinking of something else to say. ‘Can I just make the point that Churchill used short words?’ he asked.” In the end he made the point that Churchill tended to use words of Anglo-Saxon rather than Latinate origin, and he also ended with a wonderful Churchill parody (absent from the text of the New Yorker) that this was not the beginning of his speech, or even the end of the beginning, but definitely the end.