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Second Thoughts

Things are not always what they seem

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"Iranians are overwhelmingly hospitable people," says Afshin Molavi, an American journalist born in Iran who returned there to report " Tehran's streets in a taxi when the driver asked him what he missed most about the city. "Fresh pomegranate juice on every street corner," Molavi answered, trying to sound casual. Slamming on the brakes, the driver spun his car around, then speeded the wrong direction up a one-way street to stop in front of a fruit juice stand. "Shaken, I gulped the sour, cold pomegranate juice, and reached for my wallet to pay. 'No, you are my guest,' the merchant said. 'No, you are mine,' the driver said. 'No, you are both mine,' I insisted, ordering another round. Then we haggled on the side of the road over who would have the 'honor' of buying the juice."

"The more I studied Churchill's life and writings," says Edward Rothstein, author of " New York Times, was drawn to his subject when, following 9/11, Churchill's anticipation of the mounting German threat in the 1930s and his wartime leadership of Britain began to be invoked—and repudiated—as models for thinking about the war on terrorism. "I wanted to understand better what Churchill saw coming when most of his countrymen thought his perceptions perverse, and I wanted to understand, too, the nature of his leadership and why it made such a difference," says Rothstein. "Very likely," he goes on, "I would have considered him insufferable, an egoist in silk underwear, a self-aggrandizing narcissist. Even Churchill's friends had to exhibit patience and indulgence. It is no wonder his political allies often came to be wary of him. Yet as I have become less enamored of him as a social being, I have become more amazed at the qualities of his mind, his rhetorical gifts, his foresight and restless inventiveness. He was a Great Man who was often less than a great man."

About Carey Winfrey
Carey Winfrey

Carey Winfrey was Smithsonian magazine's editor in chief for ten years, from 2001 to 2011.

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