How does one write a review of an exhibition dedicated entirely to words? Dedicated almost entirely to one person’s words, at that. Winston Churchill, orator, writer, prime minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and dual citizen of Britain and the United States, is the subject of The Morgan Museum’s enlightening new exhibition.
Entitled The Power of Words, this exhibition proves just that. Featuring hand-written documents, speeches, and letter by Churchill and his contemporaries, The Power of Words identifies Churchill as a bold and empowering leader, a friend to many, with an incorrigible wit and determination. His words carried Britain, America, and the world past the devastating effects of World War II and provided hope to those who thought they had none.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a man of many talents. Born in November 1874 at the beautiful Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Churchill was the son of a Brooklyn-born socialite mother and a British lord politician father. Churchill is most noted for his role as prime minister during World War II – a position he assumed on May 10, 1940. Churchill’s speeches during the blitzkrieg, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, asking for American assistance in the war, all served to rally both his own people and those in other countries. In a September 11th speech to the British people after bombings of London, Churchill vehemently spoke,
“He [Hitler] hopes by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorize and cow the people of this mighty Imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government, and thus distract our attention unduly from the ferocious onslaught he is preparing. Little does he know the spirit of the British Nation.”
Churchill became friends with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was instrumental in achieving American cooperation during the war. The prime minister was enamored by the United States and by New York, and he was made an Honorary United States citizen in 1963. He wrote to his mother one year, “What an extraordinary people the Americans are! Their hospitality is a revelation to me and they make you feel at home and at ease in a way that I have never before experienced.” Churchill died in London in 1965 after a severe stroke at the age of 90. His policies, collaborations, and words live one.
The exhibition itself is very well organized, opening with the title in large orange letters. Churchill’s entire career is documented, from birth to death. The Power of Words introduces the visitor to various writings, situated in a semi-circle around the room. At the very center of the exhibition is a small theater where wartime images are portrayed alongside quotes, which are also played from radio broadcasts.
The exhibition has been designed by Martello Media with most items on view generously loaned by the Churchill Archives Center in Cambridge. Exhibition highlights include Churchill’s school report card noting his lackluster grades, letters to his mother, wartime speeches, the conferment of US citizenship by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his Nobel Peace Prize for literature, and notes from American presidents and international diplomats to Churchill commending him on his performance and exchanging pleasantries.
Museum visitors are able to see for themselves the real power of words that Churchill maintained. Many written in his own hand, letters and speeches on display indicate how truly inspiring and even revolutionary just one man can be. William Griswold, Morgan Museum director, writes,
“Few modern statesmen have approached Sir Winston Churchill’s skill with the written and spoken word. He made his name as a writer, he funded his political career with his pen, and he carefully crafted his words to serve as tools for international diplomacy and as patriotic symbols for a nation at war. This exhibition shows why words matter, and how they can make a difference for the better.”
Become inspired yourself at the Morgan Museum, located at 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street. The Power of Words is on display through September 23. Let us know what you think of the exhibit and the man by leaving your words in the boxes below.