[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 23:33:58 UTC 2023

On twitter Simon Koppel told me about an advertisement in the
"Columbia Daily Spectator" of New York for a sermon by Harry Emerson
Fosdick that appeared slightly earlier than the first citation in the
QI article. The QI article has been updated and Koppel is


[ref] 1936 October 16, Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume LX, Number 17,
Section: Religious Announcements, Advertisement: The Riverside Church
at Riverside Drive and 122nd Street, Quote Page 2, Column 4, New York.
(Columbia Spectator Archive; accessed on June 13, 2023;
website:spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
The Riverside Church
Riverside Drive and 122nd Street

11 A. M. Morning Worship
Harry Emerson Fosdick
[End excerpt]

I found that Fosdick's sermon was broadcast on the radio which
probably aided the dissemination of this family of sayings. The
following citation mentioned a broadcast on radio station WJZ in
Meriden, Connecticut:

[ref] 1936 November 21, The Meriden Daily Journal, Journal Radio
Programs, Tomorrow P.M., Time: 4:00, Radio Station: WJZ, Quote Page 7,
Column 2, Meriden, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
WJZ-Are We Part of the Problem or of the Answer?
—Harry Emerson Fosdick.
[End excerpt]


On Mon, Jun 12, 2023 at 11:36 PM ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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:
> https://quoteinvestigator.medium.com/b7f7d101197
> https://quoteinvestigator.com/2023/06/12/part-solution/
> 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]
> https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-windsor-star-fosdick-part-problem-an/126191059/
> [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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list