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May 17, 2022

Disney Star Wars Foil Art Scenes Set


     
On May 17, 2012, Republican presidential candidate, Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), said something that was later cited as one of the factors that caused him to lose the election to his Democratic opponent, President Barack Obama.

It was put #1 in the list of the “top” quotations of 2012 by Fred Shapiro, associate librarian at Yale Law School and author of the authoritative Yale Book of Quotations

It’s among the most damaging political gaffes ever uttered.

Romney was speaking to a group of wealthy Republican donors at a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida.

At one point, he started talking about people who pay no taxes. And, he wasn’t referring to the rich people and corporations who find ways to avoid paying taxes and are usually Republican supporters.

He was talking about people whose incomes are so low they pay no federal income taxes and receive various types of assistance from the federal government.

In his list of the most notable quotes of 2012, Shapiro used this shortened version of what Romney said:

    “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims…These are people who pay no income tax…and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

When reports of what Romney said came to light, the 47 percent number and Romney’s suggestion that he didn’t care about nearly half of all Americans created a media firestorm.

But that firestorm didn’t happen immediately. The May 17th fundraiser was closed to the press.

News about Romney’s 47 percent quote didn’t hit the news until September 17, 2012 when a video secretly recorded on a smartphone by a bartender who was working at the fundraiser was released by Mother Jones magazine.

Here’s a longer portion of Romney’s 47 percent comments, transcribed from the video, which you can watch on YouTube by clicking this link or the image below.

    "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, he starts off with a huge number.
     These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not."

Predictably, Republicans and right-leaning political commentators defended Romney and said his comments were essentially true.

And, naturally, Democrats and left-leaning commentators attacked him for his apparent uncaring attitude toward millions of Americans.

They also noted there were the factual errors in what he said. For example, not all of the 47 percent of Americans who have incomes so low they pay no federal income taxes are on “welfare” and not all consistently vote Democratic.

You can read “fact checks” from both sides about the substance of what Romney said in various articles and opinion pieces at this link.

I read Romney’s comments as being, in part, a candid reflection of common campaign strategy. In political campaigns, it makes sense to focus on persuadable “swing voters” who might vote either way and avoid wasting resources trying to convince voters who are part of the hard core base of your opponent.

Regardless, as is often the case in politics, the “facts” and “truth” didn’t matter.

Mitt’s 47 percent gaffe made him seem like he didn’t care about poor and working class voters and was dissing them to a group of rich fat cats he wanted donations from.

That impression helped convince many of the swing voters he wanted to vote for him to vote for President Obama instead. On election day, Obama won the electoral vote by a wide margin: 332 to 206. He had a smaller margin in the nationwide popular vote.

Ironically, 47% of the popular vote was for Romney.

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading and listening…

April 22, 2022

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”


The animal characters
Walt Kelly created for his classic newspaper comic strip Pogo were known for their seemingly simplistic, but slyly perceptive comments about the state of the world and politics.

None is more remembered than Pogo the ‘possum’s quote in the poster Kelly designed to help promote environmental awareness and publicize the first annual observance of Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970:

       “WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.”

In the poster, under the quote, Pogo is seen holding a litter pick-up stick and a burlap bag.

He appears to be getting ready to start cleaning up the garbage humans have strewn over Okefenokee Swamp, the part of the planet where he lives.

Kelly used the line again in the Pogo strip published on the second Earth Day in 1971.

The words poignantly highlight a key concept of environmental stewardship: we all share part of the responsibility for the trashing of planet Earth, so we should all do our share to help clean it up.

Pogo’s quip was a pun based on the famous quotation “We have met the enemy and they are ours” — one of two famous quotes made by American Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry on September 10, 1813, after defeating a British naval squadron on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. (Perry’s other famous quote that day was “Don’t give up the ship.” )  

Kelly had used a version of the quote in the foreword to his 1953 book The Pogo Papers, but it was not as pithy or memorable as the line he coined for Earth Day.

The environmental issues we face today are clearly daunting.

However, since the first Earth Day in 1970 many environmental battles have been won and there has been notable progress in addressing some of the problems that seemed daunting in the past.

Back then, for example, it was perfectly legal to dump untreated sewage and industrial waste into local waterways or turn irreplaceable natural areas like Okefenokee Swamp into toxic waste dumps.

Indeed, the types and levels of pollutants and environmental damage allowed in 1970 now seem shocking in retrospect.

Current environmental laws are much stronger. And, with some notable exceptions (like worldwide carbon dioxide emissions), most types of water and air pollution have been significantly reduced during the past four decades.

That is due in part to the grassroots environmental movement which was symbolically launched and celebrated by the first Earth Day.

Walt Kelly died in 1973, just three years after his Earth Day poster was published.

The quote used as the poster’s headline is still famous today — and the concept embodied in the poster still holds true.

We can’t just blame the big bad corporations for the environmental problems we face.

Most of the time, they are just giving us what we “demand” as consumers at a cost we are willing to pay, and abiding by laws created by politicians we elect.

We all need to our own small part, as consumers and voters.

If we do, we can collectively have a significant impact on addressing the environmental problems that threaten our local communities, our country and “Spaceship Earth.”

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading, listening and stuff…

April 14, 2022

“Now he belongs to the ages” – or maybe to the angels…


Three famous quotations are linked to the assassination and death of President Abraham Lincoln.

Many history and quotation books say that after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. he shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!”

That Latin phrase — which means “Thus always to tyrants!” — was and still is the official state motto of Virginia, one of the Confederate states during the Civil War.

According to some accounts, Booth also shouted “The South is avenged!”

Many history and quotation books also say that when Lincoln died the next morning, on April 15, 1865, his friend and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton said to the small gathering of people at Lincoln’s bedside: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

However, it’s not actually clear whether these traditionally-cited quotes by Booth and Stanton are accurate. There are different “earwitness” accounts of what they said.

In his painstakingly-researched book We Saw Lincoln Shot, author Timothy Good determined that most witnesses recalled hearing Booth shout “Sic semper tyrannis!” But others — including Booth himself — claimed that he only yelled “Sic semper!” Some didn’t recall hearing Booth shout anything in Latin.

What Booth shouted in English is also muddied by varying recollections. Some witnesses said he shouted “The South is avenged!” Others thought they heard him say “Revenge for the South!” or “The South shall be free!” Two said Booth yelled “I have done it!”

Similarly, there are differing accounts of the words Edwin Stanton spoke when Lincoln died.

The traditional version of Edwin M. Stanton’s quote —  “Now he belongs to the ages” — were the words remembered John Hay, who was Lincoln’s private secretary at the time and in the room when Lincoln died.

That quote was included in a book Hay wrote about Lincoln with John G. Nicolay in 1890. It was also cited in Ida M. Tarbell’s widely-read biography of Lincoln, published in 1900. 

Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, one of Lincoln’s attending physicians, wrote his own account of the President’s death for Century Magazine in 1883. According to Taft, Stanton said “He now belongs to the Ages.”

The Hay and Taft versions vary only in the order of Stanton’s words.

However, as explained in a fascinating article by Adam Gopnik in the May 28, 2007 issue of The New Yorker, there’s another account that uses the word “angels” instead of “ages,” giving the quote a significantly different meaning.

On the night Lincoln was shot, he was taken to a room in Peterson’s boarding house (sometimes spelled Petersen’s). That evening, Edwin Stanton had witnesses to the shooting brought there to report what they had seen.

A Civil War veteran named James Tanner, who lived nearby and could write shorthand, was brought in to record what the witnesses said.

Tanner was also present on the morning of April 15, 1865, when Lincoln died. He didn’t write down Stanton’s words that morning. But he did later. And, according to Tanner, what Stanton said was: “Now he belongs to the angels.”

This has created a debate among historians. Most believe the traditional “ages” version is probably correct. But some, such as James L. Swanson, author of the book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, side with “the angels.” 

In his New Yorker article, Adam Gopnik concluded:
“The past is so often unknowable not because it is befogged now but because it was befogged then, too, back when it was still the present. If we had been there listening, we still might not have been able to determine exactly what Stanton said. All we know for sure is that everyone was weeping, and the room was full.”

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading and listening…

April 08, 2022

“The shot heard round the world”

The famous phrase “The shot heard round the world” was coined by American essayist, lecturer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) in 1837.

It’s the last line in the first verse of his poem “Hymn: Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument,” generally referred to as “The Concord Hymn.”

Emerson wrote the poem for the official dedication of the Concord Monument on July 4, 1837. The monument commemorates the “Battle of Concord” that took place at Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, a seminal event in the American Revolution.

That day, some 700 British Army regulars began marching through Lexington toward Concord to confiscate an illegal weapons arsenal stored there by the Massachusetts militia. When the “Redcoats” got to Lexington, their way was blocked by about 80 local militiamen.

British Major John Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse, which they actually began to do.

Then, suddenly, someone fired a shot. Nobody knew who it was. But, when it rang out, both sides started firing at each other and the American Revolution was underway.

Emerson’s name for that first shot comes in the first verse of his poem, which reads:

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

At the 1837 ceremony to dedicate the monument, the poem was first read to the audience. Then, as planned, it was sung by a choir to the tune of a hymn called “The Old Hundredth,” a.k.a. “The Old 100th” or “The Old Hundred.” (Hence the use of the word “hymn” in the poem’s title.)

The rest of the verses are as follows:

“The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept;
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone. 

Spirit, that made those heroes dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.”

Emerson’s poem was widely reprinted in newspapers nationwide, giving him his first major recognition as a poet. Previously, he’d been known primarily as an essayist and lecturer.

It was included in his collection of poetry titled Poems, first published in 1848.

Oddly, in that edition, he misremembered the date of the Concord Monument dedication, since he gave the poem’s title as: “HYMN: SUNG AT THE COMPLETION OF THE CONCORD MONUMENT, April 19, 1836.”

Emerson had apparently confused the April 19, 1775 date of the Concord Battle with the July 4, 1837 date of the monument’s dedication.

In 1894, Massachusetts State Legislature commemorated the battle by making April 19 a state holiday named “Patriots’ Day.” It has remained a state holiday, though it is now celebrated on the third Monday of April, so the date varies.

In Massachusetts, it’s a day off for most people and schools and most businesses are closed. It’s also the day when the venerable Boston Marathon occurs.

Patriots’ Day is also celebrated in Maine and Wisconsin, but it’s not a national holiday.

The national holiday called “Patriot Day” is different from Patriots’ Day.

Patriot Day is an annual observance in remembrance of the Americans who were killed and injured in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001.

Emerson’s memorable words “the shot heard round the world” created a phrase formula that has been used ever since to refer to various other things that, when seen or heard, generated widespread attention or notoriety.

Recently, for example, NPR TV critic and author Eric Deggans called actor Will Smith’s open-handed sucker punch of comedian Chris Rock at the March 27, 2022 Academy Awards “The Slap Seen Around the World.”

The words Smith yelled at Rock after the slap are at least a temporarily famous quotation: “Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!”

In a post on the NPR website the next day, Deggans (who is black) wrote:

“What bothered me most, after The Slap Seen Around the World, was how the giants of Black Hollywood immediately circled to protect Will Smith...Will anyone famous who stood and applauded Smith after his acceptance speech be asked to explain their actions? Will the Academy or Oscarcast producers explain why they allowed someone to hit a performer — a friend sent me a text joking that Ricky Gervais is lucky he’s not still hosting the Golden Globes — and then collect an award?”

The lists of other things said to have been heard or seen “round the world” or “around the world” since Emerson coined his phrase are enormous.

You can see more than a million examples that use “heard” in the posts shown in the Google search at this link. You can see over a million examples using “seen” in the posts at this link. (Also see the post on my Quote/Counterquote blog here.)

Undoubtedly, there will be many more in the future.

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading and listening…

 

March 07, 2022

The awful origin of “The pen is mightier than the sword.”


On March 7, 1839 the play Richelieu: or, the Conspiracy, by the British politician and author, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, premiered at the Covent Garden Theatre in London.

Few people today have heard of this play. But everyone knows one of the lines in it: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

The basic meaning of this famous quote — that the written word can be mightier than physical force or military power — was not originated by Bulwer-Lytton. There are similar lines in earlier works by various authors.

But Bulwer-Lytton’s play Richelieu is the origin of the version that became a familiar saying.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a.k.a. the 1st Baron of Lytton, is renowned as a writer, but not for being a good writer. He’s renowned for being one of the worst writers in history.

His novels and plays — including Richelieu — are infamously pompous, long-winded and full of badly-constructed language.

The most notorious example is the oft-quoted opening line of his historical novel Paul Clifford (1830), which begins: “It was a dark and stormy night...”

The complete opening line of Paul Clifford is:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents-except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

That line and the novel are so memorably bad that “It was a dark and stormy night...” became a cliché and joke, even though most people don’t know what it came from.  

It has even inspired an annual contest, The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which entrants compete to submit the most convoluted and inane opening sentence for a fictional work of fiction.

Bulwer-Lytton’s “dark and stormy night” is his most famous bad sentence. But he wrote plenty of others that are equally odd, contorted and hard to fathom.

For example, here’s the full quotation in Act II, Scene II of Richelieu that includes the “pen is mightier” line:

“Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanter’s wand — itself a nothing,
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyze the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! Take away the sword,
States can be saved without it!”

If that strikes you as amazingly confusing and pretentious, then you’re not alone.

However, we have to give Bulwer-Lytton his due. He did create several famous quotes, including “the pen is mightier than the sword” — words that are still used and repurposed today.

Of course, as you probably know, his pen and sword aphorism is also the basis for a popular nudge-nudge, wink-wink pun.

If you don’t know the pun I’m talking about, never mind. It’s not actually that funny, even though a lot of us sniggered at it when we were kids.

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading…

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