Historian discusses life in shadow of grandfather Churchill
Celia Sandys addressed family legacy Friday
Published: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 27, 2013 21:10
Celia Sandys, the granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, greeted the crowd Friday in Rudder Auditorium with a “howdy” and a smile.
Sandys came to Texas A&M to talk about her memories of Churchill and the leadership skills he used to lead Britain during his time as prime minister. Sponsored by the Texas A&M University Press, Sandys visit recognized the University’s publication of two of Sandys’ books about her grandfather, which have been out of print for years.
Between 20 years of research on Churchill’s life and her own personal experience with him, Sandys had many stories to tell about the former prime minister.
“Being the granddaughter of perhaps the most important man in British history might seem like a daunting inheritance,” said R.J.Q. Adams, University distinguished professor, when introducing Sandys. “Ms. Sandys is certainly a well-credited historian.”
Titled, “The Power of Words: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill,” the presentation was formed around the four ideals Sandys said her grandfather believed separated leaders from followers.
“Courage, integrity, vision and communication were the four qualities my grandfather believed made a great leader,” Sandys said. “He said courage was the most important because it guarantees the others.”
Sandys said Churchill thought leadership was about change and the best leaders were those who were able to deal with and anticipate change. Sandys said Churchill had this ability, which made him an effective leader during war time.
“Not only was he able to lead his country during war, he was an articulate interpreter of what was happening and what might happen,” Sandys said.
Sandys said Churchill’s speech style and words are still relevant today.
“After 9/11, he walked back into history books,” Sandys said. “People turned to his words for hope. Speeches from the president ran with a ‘Churchillian’ style.”
Sandys said Churchill was able to inspire people with words, citing former President John F. Kennedy when he said Churchill mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.
“It’s been said that Hitler could make you believe that he could do anything, but that Churchill could make you believe you could do anything,” Sandys said.
Sandys said Churchill suffered from a speech impediment, but he refused to use speech writers to help him formulate his speeches.
“He would spend hours practicing speeches in front of a mirror,” Sandys said.
Sandys said she didn’t understand Churchill’s political importance as a child.
“After World War II, the only people who took Churchill totally for granted were his grandchildren,” Sandys said. “We acquired knowledge [about him] little by little, mostly by observing how others acted around him and how they talked about him.”
Churchill utilized humor in his speeches and also in his day-to-day activities, Sandys said.
“Churchill showed how wit and humor are useful parts of the armory for everyday life,” Sandys said. “When an opposing speaker in a parliamentary debate noticed that Churchill was apparently dozing, he asked, ‘Must you fall asleep while I am speaking?’ To which Churchill replied, without opening his eyes, ‘No, it is purely voluntary.’”
Sandys also spoke Thursday night at the Bush Library Foundation event titled, “Memories of My Grandfather,” during which Sandys focused on personal moments with her grandfather. The event attracted many, including former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush.
Charles Backus, press director for the Texas A&M University Press, said he was delighted to have Sandys on campus.
“As publisher of new Texas A&M editions of what she has called the two favorites of all the books she has written, we were delighted to host Celia Sandys in her visit to College Station and are deeply appreciative of all the support and cooperation given us by the whole community,” Backus said. “She showed genuine interest in all the people she met, from A&M students and cadets to President and Mrs. Bush. And I think she thoroughly enjoyed her visit here, including her introduction to both football and Aggie traditions on Saturday.”