Barack Obama seems to have a lot of problems with proper research, and in this case, with proper credit on borrowed philosophy. At the end of this week’s press conference, President Obama offered words of wisdom about the “moral arc of the universe,” and not for the first time failed to credit the original author:
And I think it’s important for us to make sure that we let the Iranian people know that we are watching what’s happening, that they are not alone in this process. Ultimately, though, what’s going to be most important is what happens in Iran.
And we’ve all been struck by the courage of people. And I mentioned this I think in a statement that I made a couple of days ago. Some of you who had been covering my campaigns know this is one of my favorite expressions, was Dr. King’s expression that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” We have to believe that ultimately justice will prevail. All right. Thank you, guys.
Some of “you guys”, meaning the reporters on his campaign and now in the White House press corps, should have called Obama on this error when it first happened. It’s not like no one does research, after all. Reverend Matt Tittle in Houston not only did his homework, he mailed it to the Obama campaign:
In April, during the presidential primary season, I perked up from the usual din of campaign rhetoric when I heard then-candidate Barack Obama say (referring to Dr. Martin Luther King’s words):
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I perked up because over a year earlier, in January of 2007 on MLK weekend, I wrote and delivered a sermon titled, Keepers of the Dream, in which I researched the origin of that very phrase, which Dr. King did use often, but which was not original to him.
Unitarian Universalists have long known that the original author of “the arc of the moral universe” was nineteenth-century Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker.
In fact, Parker wrote it in 1853. Tittle assumed that Obama simply didn’t know the difference, and set out to inform him:
Fast forward to April 2008, when I heard Barack Obama attribute the quote to Dr. King…I immediately emailed the Obama Campaign the actual citation in the interest of accuracy. Just a point of information.
I have no way of knowing if the Obama Campaign ever attended to my email. I’d like to think so. What I do know is that I cannot find an instance of Barack Obama using “the arc of the moral universe” after April 2008.
Well, now he does, and now Rev. Tittle knows that it’s not that Obama doesn’t know, it’s that he doesn’t care. Fortunately, the moral arc of research is as long as the Internet, and as immediate as YouTube.
Thanks to PattyAnn for her research on this Obamateurism.
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