Raiders of the lost arc of history
On the Oval Office rug:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
President Obama’s new presidential rug seemed beyond reproach, with quotations from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. woven along its curved edge.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” According media reports, this quote keeping Obama company on his wheat-colored carpet is from King.
Except it’s not a King quote. The words belong to a long-gone Bostonian champion of social progress. His roots in the republic ran so deep that his grandfather commanded the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington.
For the record, Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama.
Parker said in 1853: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one. . . . But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”
It’s not the long arc/arch of history that protects and engenders freedom — it is the hard work, wisdom and courage of individuals, of which there has been precious little on display in the Oval Office this past year. Enough with the arc, already.
Then there’s the other quote:
“The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally on the welfare of all of us.”
Over at the Huffington Post, the quote is considered an endorsement of socialism.
But Susan Shelley at America Wants To Know said the quote is taken out of context. Great detective work by a great thinking American.
We know the speech today as the The Square Deal speech. Readers may decide for themselves:
Unfortunately, in this world the innocent frequently find themselves obliged to pay some of the penalty for the misdeeds of the guilty; and so if hard times come, whether they be due to our own fault or to our misfortune, whether they be due to some burst of speculative frenzy that has caused a portion of the business world to lose its head -a loss which no legislation can possibly supply– or whether they be due to any lack of wisdom in a portion of the world of labor — in each case, the trouble once started is felt more or less in every walk of life.
It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class and promote merely that class’s selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes and to work for their interests by working for our common country.
We can keep our government on a sane and healthy basis, we can make and keep our social system what it should be, only on condition of judging each man, not as a member of a class, but on his worth as a man. It is an infamous thing in our American life, and fundamentally treacherous to our institutions, to apply to any man any test save that of his personal worth, or to draw between two sets of men any distinction save the distinction of conduct, the distinction that marks off those who do well and wisely from those who do ill and foolishly. There are good citizens and bad citizens in every class as in every locality, and the attitude of decent people toward great public and social questions should be determined, not by the accidental questions of employment or locality, but by those deep-set principles which represent the innermost souls of men.
The failure in public and in private life thus to treat each man on his own merits, the recognition of this government as being either for the poor as such or for the rich as such, would prove fatal to our Republic, as such failure and such recognition have always proved fatal in the past to other republics. A healthy republican government must rest upon individuals, not upon classes or sections. As soon as it becomes government by a class or by a section, it departs from the old American ideal.
More at Don Surber’s post, who concludes,
It is that last line, “The death-knell of the Republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others,” that should be on the rug.
Sadly, TR’s words have proved prophetic.
The entire speech is here.
Odd how a president whose supporters decry quotes as being “out of context” would miss something like this. Far from an endorsement of having El Presidente take over industry upon industry. TR called for self-government, the antithesis of Obamacare
What I want to know, why bother put quotes on beige carpeting anyway?