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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oops! An Obama Error

This may be old news to some but it is new to me. President Obama redecorated the Oval Office in the Whitehouse, as is the right of all incoming presidents. As part of his redecoration he had a new rug created which has on it five quotations he admired. He credited five great Americans as the originators of these quotations. As it turned out two of the quotations were wrongly credited.

You would think a person who went to school and Boston would have known the origins of these quotations.

The Oval Office View beyond the President Desk

The quotations credited to Martin Luther King, Jr ("The Arc of the Universe is Long, But it Bends toward Justice") and Abraham Lincoln ("Government of the People, By the People, For the People.") where wrongly credited. They should have been credited to The Reverend Theodore Parker, a leading cleric and outspoken social reformer in the 19th Century. Parker is a product of the New England Enlightenment, Transcendentalism. He was the minister of the 28th Congregationalist Society. (When Unitarianism was know as the Boston Religion).

As a Unitarian minister I am annoyed and a little insulted as Parker is much revered within our denomination as one of the intellectual founders of our denomination in the 19th Century along with The Reverend William Ellery Channing and The Reverend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As the minister of the 7,000 member 28th Congregational Society in Boston, Parker spoke out for all the social causes of his day. He was an active abolitionist working to help fugitive slaves avoid being captured and sent back to their slave owners as required under the Fugitive Slave Laws.

I am sure Martin Luther King, Jr. who studied for his doctorate at Boston University in Boston and Abraham Lincoln, who was a contemporary of this outstanding preacher and social activist, were well aware they were using Parker's words. Like most clerics and public speakers they no doubt failed to give credit where credit was due. As public knowledge of Theodore Parker faded, the remarks of his were miss accredited to them.

Here are the miss accredited quotations:

To Matin Luther King, Jr. "The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice."
And, to Abraham Lincoln, "Government of the People, By the People, For the People."

Like all lecturers King and Lincoln shaped the quotation to their liking. Here are the correct quotes of Theodore Parker.
"I don't pretend to understand the moral universe, the Arc is a long one. . .But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." 1853
"A Democracy . . .that is of the people, by the people and for the people." 1850

Note: Parker no doubt was quoting for the introduction to John Wicliff's translation of the Bible into English. "The Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People and for the People"

You would think someone would have researched these quotations which the President chose in order to have made sure there ownership was properly noted. by saying such things as a "a popular quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. who liked to repeat this phrase by Theodore Parker." and " this phrase in the Gettysburg address was spoken by Abraham Lincoln paraphrasing Theodore Parker". I hate to think those who had the rug designed would not have know the original source of these quotations. They are wonderful treasured statements in the historic literature of the United States. A little searching would have revealed the correct source reference.

Perhaps, when they publish literature for the public of the wonderfully decorated Obama Oval office they will include a footnote on these missed credited quotations.


At 11:35 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Deep breaths, Philip: lots of deep breaths. :)

At 8:29 a.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Oh, and I am guessing that President Obama did not himself choose the quotes--he may have indicated he liked them, but I would hope he had more on his mind than picking quotes for office redecoration.
By the way, did you name your son in honor Rev. Theodore Parker?

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