Pirates and Thieves
Good artists borrow and great artists steal.Shakespeare’s history plays are right out of Holinshead’s chronicles,but that doesn’t diminish his greatness.He decided what to take and did it so effectively that the material was there-after known as his.Early in your candidacy is a good time to decide what concepts to steal.
The generation of pols reading this book know John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your coun-try” from memory or from David Letterman’s comedy routine “GreatMoments in Presidential Speeches.” What may not immediately cometo mind is the next sentence: “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the free-dom of man.”I suspect speechwriter Theodore Sorensen knew that this theme hadpermeated political speeches for 50 years and political thought and writing for decades before that.Eighteenth-century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau said“As soon as any man says of the affairs of state, ‘What does it matter tome?’ the state may be given up as lost.”The Mayor of Haverhill, Massachusetts said in a eulogy, “Here may webe reminded that man is most honored, not by that which a city may do for him, but by that which he has done for the city.” Supreme CourtJustice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1884 stated: “It is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of ournational life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has doneforeach of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country inreturn.”Guy Emerson in
The New Frontier:a Study of the American Liberal Spirit
italicized this quote late in the book: “men and women are bornto put more into their country than they take out of it.”Even JFK had used a version of the phrase before. At the DemocraticNational Convention, he defined his “New Frontier” by saying “It sumsup not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intendtoask of them.” On September 5, 1960, in Detroit, he said “The New