Rug burn: Obama’s misattributed Oval Office Martin Luther King quote

Tim Daniel Contributor
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Recently I blogged about the Oval Office remodel effort that took place while Obama was away on his (6th, 7th?) vacation. I mentioned that Obama picked a new Oval Office rug to replace the “sunburst” George W. Bush-era rug that First Lady Laura Bush designed.

Now horizontally adorning the Oval Office, Obama’s new rug lists several of his favorite quotes from American historical figures. A particular Teddy Roosevelt quote caught my eye as a bit collectivist, but the other quotes, including one from the late Martin Luther King Jr., were no cause for alarm.

Why am I speaking of this today?

Because there’s a crease in the Oval Office rug story: the Martin Luther King quote — “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — is not a quote from Martin Luther King.

Jamie Stiehm at the Washington Post explains:

The words belong to a long-gone Bostonian champion of social progress. His roots in the republic ran so deep that his grandfather commanded the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington.

For the record, Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama. Unless you’re fascinated by antebellum American reformers, you may not know of the lyrically gifted Parker, an abolitionist, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist thinker who foresaw the end of slavery, though he did not live to see emancipation. He died at age 49 in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War.

A seemingly trivial error, or rug-gaffe, you could say, says a lot about our touted-genius president. Educated foolishness? The Manchurian Candidate? It’s another piece in the Obama puzzle that doesn’t fit.
This time last year I blogged about the “Nine Simple Truths,” a list of prescriptions that is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Recall, the “Lincoln” axiom goes like this:

You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves

Back then I did a little research (when you could say that I was quite a bit less savvy, and perhaps even less “smart”) and found out that the above “Lincoln” adage is actually from William J.H. Boetcker.

Funny, isn’t it, that a blogger with some research/net skills can track down the actual source of a dictum or, in this case, a sort of urban-Americana poem credited to Honest Abe?

Obama’s rug burn moment isn’t a trillion-dollar deficit issue, but it is telling, nonetheless.

Tim Daniel is a small business owner and entrepreneur who currently lives in San Diego, California with his wife and lovely cat. He is editor in chief of the southern California-based Left Coast Rebel blog.