[Ads-l] Adage Origin: You Are Either Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 13 03:36:41 UTC 2023

Here are three versions of an adage I was asked to explore:

(1) Each individual is either part of the problem or part of the answer.
(2) You and I are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
(3) If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.

"The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" and "The New Yale Book of
Quotations" have pertinent entries with citations beginning in 1937.
Here are links to my article:


I concluded that U.S. pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick deserved credit
because multiple instances were credited to him in 1936. Here is the
earliest citation I have located:

[ref] 1936 October 27, The Windsor Daily Star, As We See It by W. L.
Clark, The Lure of Generalities, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Windsor,
Ontario, Canada. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
In a world which turns so quickly to the lure of pleasing
generalities, it is well to pause and think deeply of whether each
one, as an individual, is a part of the problem or a part of the
answer, says Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, D.D., pastor of Riverside
Church, New York City.
[End excerpt]

Feedback and interesting citations welcome
Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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