Some have suggested that the modest remodel of the Oval Office should be considered an Obamateurism during a tough recession, but that’s unfair. Presidents have the specific perk of choosing their own decor, as do many executives in the private sector — and since the Oval Office reflects the personality of each Chief Executive, a new rug and reupholstering the furniture after eight years hardly qualifies as an outrage. The new rug also has a new feature, promoted by the White House to the media, of inspirational quotes on its circumference from great Americans like Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. At least we hope they are, because the President still hasn’t figured out the correct origin of one of the quotes included in that carpet:
The quotes — described as being “of meaning” to and selected by President Obama — are:
“The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Government of the People, By the People, For the People” – President Abraham Lincoln
“No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings” – President John F. Kennedy
“The Welfare of Each of Us is Dependent Fundamentally Upon the Welfare of All of Us” – President Theodore Roosevelt
Martin Luther King did say what the White House attributes to him, but it wasn’t original to King, and King never claimed it was. King quoted 19th-century Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, who wrote it in 1853. As I noted in June 2009, Reverend Matt Tittle tried to inform the Obama campaign in April 2008 that they had misattributed the quote, but they never acknowledged his queries.
It’s one thing to misattribute a quote in a speech, and a little worse to ignore people who attempt to correct the mistake. It’s another thing entirely to have the misattribution written into the carpet of the Oval Office, and to have the White House continue to issue misinformation and shortchange the original author of the phrase.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!