Off the track a bit to present day:  it appears an error was made regarding a quote which appears on the new rug in the Oval Office. The quote in question is, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”, and on the rug it was attributed to Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr.

In reality, Dr. King used the quote often in his speeches, but the statement was actually made by a 19th century abolitionist and Transcendentalist Theodore Parker, a Unitarian Minister whom Louisa May Alcott admired. When she lived in Boston, she often listened to his sermons. Parker fought long and hard against slavery but died just before the Civil War so was never able to see the results of his involvement with the abolitionist movement.

The quote in its entirety is “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.” Parker stated it in 1853.

Here’s the link to the article in its entirety.

Sounds like someone in the White House needs a history lesson. How embarrassing for the president!


2 Replies to “Oops!”

  1. Yes, Theodore Parker was another charismatic 19th century reformer who was personally acquianted with the Alcotts. I found his name in Louisa’s journal entry of June 1860.

    “To Boston to the memorial meeting for Mr.Parker, which was very beautiful, and proved how much he was beloved. Music Hall was full of flowers and sunshine, and hundreds of faces, both sad and proud, as the various speakers told the life of love and labor which makes Theodore Parker’s memory so rich a legacy to Boston. I was very glad to have known so good a man, and been called “friend” by him.”

    (Keyser, Elizabeth Lennox, The Portable Louisa May Alcott, Memoirs, Journals and Letters, Penguin Putnam Inc., 2000, p.567)

    Louisa May Alcott truly lived in the age of reform, with so many movements going on: abolitionism, moral reform societies, temperance societies, women’s rights movement… She was surrounded by the people who lived their ideals with such enthusiasm that their ideas were “contagious” and lived even after the death of those who first uttered them.

    Well, what can you do, Theodore Parker said it first but Martin Luther King Jr. made it popular one century later. He believed in it so strongly and made it so popular that Obama mixed them up now. :)Hey, if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything and . 🙂 Jamie Steihm pointed out his mistake and the idea of moral universe as a long arc that bends towards justice gets new attention and becomes even more popular. 🙂

    Theodor Parker said it really nicely. When I read it, I got the image of rainbow when God put it in the sky after the flood. To me it’s always a symbol of hope. Isn’t it wonderful that even when you cannot point your finger on the way your troubles will be solved, you can imagine that rainbow, God’s promise that everything is gonna be all right, and you can believe that long arc bends towards justice? I like that quote on the rug, regardless of who said it first. 🙂

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