We Are Confronted by an Insurmountable Opportunity

Walt Kelly? Don Mitchell? Fred W. Bewley? Leon Shimkin? A. C. Monteith? W. Willard Wirtz? Hubert Humphrey? Howard J. Samuels? George H. W. Bush? W. C. Fields? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Walt Kelly authored the magnificent comic strip “Pogo” featuring hilarious wordplay. He has been credited with the following oxymoronic phrase:

Our problem is an insurmountable opportunity.

I have been unable to find a solid citation, and now I am unsure about this ascription. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has not found this saying in Walt Kelly’s oeuvre, and based on current evidence QI would not credit Kelly. However, the comic strip text has not been fully digitized, and this judgment is not definitive.

The earliest match for this joke located by QI appeared in the proceedings of a conference on advertising in 1956. Don Mitchell of the Creative Education Foundation in Buffalo, New York delivered the line while conversing with a staff member of the General Electric Company. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Ed, very much. You talked about GE having opportunities. I think we ought to tell the folks that GE call their problems opportunities, but there are quite a few people who feel there are some insurmountable opportunities around.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading We Are Confronted by an Insurmountable Opportunity


  1. 1956, Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Advertising and Sales Promotion Executive Conference, Held at The Ohio Union, The Ohio State University Campus on October 26, 1956, Brainstorming–It’s Application to Creative Advertising by Don Mitchell (Associate Director, Creative Education Foundation, Buffalo, New York), Start Page 4, Quote Page 19, Ohio State University, College of Commerce and Administration, Columbus, Ohio. (Verified with scans; thanks to the library system of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)