Tuesday, January 19, 2016


I came across a somewhat lengthy quotation - allegedly by Shaw - the other day, as I was perusing an article about Greenwood Village's local election. Don't ask me why. 

The quotation reads as follows: 

“It is a curious fact that when we get sick, we want an uncommon doctor. If we have a construction job, we want an uncommon engineer. When we get into war, we want and uncommon admiral and an uncommon general. Only when we get into politics are we content with the common man.”

As usual, no source is provided. So I seached my database and... nothing! 

Well, it's no wonder. It turns out that none other than 
President Herbert Hoover pronounced these words as part of a telephone address from New York City to Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio on the occasion of the conference "Building For A Better Tomorrow." If you read the links below you'll see just how fitting the title was.  

The full text of the speech can be read at 
the Hoover Association's page, and you can see that it was later published as a booklet - a copy of which is available at the National Archives's site


Well, another misattribution, another dollar. We know of many witticisms and other quotations that have been erroneously ascribed to Shaw. 

However, this blog has no interest in the words of American Presidents - 
except for the occasional Shavianism. In fact, political speeches - or, rather, the speeches of politicians - are practically anathema for Shaw. See, for instance, what he had to say about the way the politicians of his time delivered their speeches through the wireless: 

"Most of the politicians are awful. Lloyd George was bad enough, and Churchill is no better. Someone ought to tell them that their House of Commons style, with long pauses between every word to think out what they are going to say next, is pitiful through the mike, especially when they pronounce their prepositions and conjunctions as if they were speaking oracles."

The quotation is from 
Hesketh Pearson's Bernard Shaw: A Biography (p. 469), and many of my dear friends from the ISS should re-read at least that page because another thing Shaw is quoted as saying is "Do you know anything about these infernal Shaw Societies?"  

At any rate, since Shaw was actually referring to style rather than to content, I'll spare President Hoover, Winston Churcill and all other politicians, and publish the post all the same. 

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