Sunday, September 05, 2010

Recycling at the White House: misattributed quotes on Oval Office rug

From AolNews, concerning the "quotation rug" recently installed in the Obama Oval Office, as to a quotation of Dr. King:

Only it turns out – after the rug has already been sewn and laid down – that it's been incorrectly attributed to King.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," is a phrase the civil rights leader used regularly. Obama even referred to it in his election victory speech in Chicago on Nov. 5, 2008.

The mistake was first reported by The Washington Post, and reporters raised it with White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton on Saturday. Burton stood by the attribution to King, saying that the civil rights leader uttered those exact words on Sept. 2, 1957, according to CNN.

The quote is by Massachusetts minister and abolitionist Theodore Parker, who is credited with saying 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."

As noted by Aolnews, the story was broken by the Washington Post in a story by Jamie Stiehm titled Oval Office rug gets history wrong .

Stiehm's piece ends with words relating to the Lincoln quote on the Oval Office rug:

The familiar quote from Lincoln woven into Obama's rug is "government of the people, by the people and for the people," the well-known utterance from the close of his Gettysburg Address in 1863.

Funny that in 1850, Parker wrote, "A democracy -- that is a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people."

Theodore Parker, Oval Office wordmeister for the ages.

Parker, in the cited text, is giving a definition of democracy. Lincoln was not, and did not include the word "all" in his text. Among other people who did not vote in 1863 were women. Although the Oval Office rug included only that short fragment from the Gettysburg Address, one should recall the two last sentences:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us --
that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion
-- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain --
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and
that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

As a separate point, Lincoln, in his "House Divided" speech was quoting from the Bible, although many people in the 21st century may not realize it.

Also, the blog IPKat has a post Plagiarism: do we know what it means, do we know why we need it? which begins:

There are certain terms, frequently used in connection with IP matters, the meaning of which is utimately unclear. In my mind, no term better meets this description than "plagiarism" or "plagiarist".

One commenter wrote: Judge etc Richard A. Posner says in his book The Little Book of Plagiarism, Pantheon Books, New York, 2007, that not all plagiarism is infringement in IPR and not all infringement in IPR is plagiarism. So, here is one that knows what it´s all about:-) This point had been made long before Judge Posner's book.

***Also on the Oval Office rug:

Rugmaker Called to Carpet for Oval Office Flub

New Oval Office rug made in West Michigan takes center stage in quote controversy wherein Heidi Fenton states:

The quotes are woven into the outer edge of the rug, but the carpet does not have attributions for the quotes — those came from a White House press release.

This point is not explicitly made in Stiehm's article in the Washington Post.

UPDATE. Obama quoting Hendrix. From

Though Obama didn't acknowledge it, the line was a verbatim quote from "Stone Free," the first song Hendrix wrote after moving to England in 1966. "They talk about me like a dog," the song says. "Talkin about the clothes I wear. But they don't realize they're the ones who's square."

It's unclear if Obama consciously or unconsciously cited the lyric. A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. But regardless of its source, Obama's off-script message syncs with his overall frustration with Republicans, whom he has lambasted repeatedly as the "party of no."


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