Courage and Serenity Prayer news

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Nov 19 16:26:49 UTC 2009

As you may recall, this prayer is attested in publications from 1936 (found by
Fred Shapiro), with the second (serenity) line I found attested in 1934. Notice
I call the serenity line the second line; evidence so far available suggests
original form of the prayer had courage before serenity. Below I present (from
a paper copy) an antedating of the prayer's attribution to Reinhold
Niebuhr--earlier, apparently than he recalled!!--to 1937. This 1937 use is the
second oldest complete use so far identified. Also, it cites another
publication from which it quotes.

The Intercollegian and Far Horizons, vol. 55 no. 2, November 1937,
"What Makes a Strong Student Christian Association?" by Paul E. Pfwetze, pages
35-36. Page 36 col. 1:
A strong Association evaluates its progress by these tests:
[col. 2:]
10. Is it inspired by the prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr:
"Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to
accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other."
Reprinted from "Notes and Views" (Published by the Pacific Southwest Field

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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