Skip to main content

Commander and Thief!

I was doing research for a speech I'm writing and was looking at some old manuscripts and speeches by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I came across the following passage in an essay on Memorial Day.

"For, stripped of the temporary associations which gave rise to it, it is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
An Address Delivered May 30, 1884, at Keene, N.H., before John Sedgwick Post No.4, Grand Army of the Republic.

I hope that you noticed, as I did, the striking resemblance to one of the most repeated soundbite quotes of all time. In speechwriting class they keep telling us that using other peoples ideas, jokes, anecdotes, etc. is actually a best practice (so long as it isn't plagarism). I guess I never really thought about the idea that professionals have been doing that for such a long time.

So John F. Kennedy, shame on you (or your speechwriter) for taking a brilliant man's line and reshaping it with antithesis to be quoted for the rest of time. Shame or kudos ... I guess a little bit of both!

Love always, ~Heather