Tag Archives: Margaret Mead

Never Doubt That a Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens Can Change the World; Indeed, It’s the Only Thing That Ever Has

Margaret Mead? Donald Keys? Norman Vincent Peale? Patrick E. Haggerty? R. H. Edwin Espy? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular energizing statement about small groups changing the world is usually attributed to the influential cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. Yet, I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Researchers have been unsuccessful in finding the quotation in Margaret Mead’s corpus. The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in the 1982 book “Earth at Omega: Passage to Planetization”. The epigraph of chapter 6 was the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead

The author, Donald Keys, did not provide any details about the source of the statement. Margaret Mead had died a few years earlier in 1978.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1982 Copyright, Earth at Omega: Passage to Planetization by Donald Keys, (Epigraph of Chapter VI: The Politics of Consciousness), Quote Page 79, Published by Branden Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Preview)

Always Remember That You Are Absolutely Unique. Just Like Everyone Else

Margaret Mead? Jim Wright? John Peers? Meade? Red Green? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

snow09Dear Quote Investigator: A very funny quotation about individuality has been attributed to the influential anthropologist Margaret Mead:

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

I would like to include this in a book I am preparing, but I have not been able to find a good citation, yet. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the assertion that this remark was made by Margaret Mead. In fact, QI conjectures that the ascription was constructed based on the misreading of a passage in the 1979 citation presented further below.

The earliest evidence located by QI of a similar type of quip appeared in 1971 and was written by an assistant editorial director for the “The Dallas Morning News” named Jim Wright. Wright criticized a best-selling book from the 1970s called “The Greening of America” by a Yale academic. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

In other words, the Yale professor’s best-selling work answers the burning question that every teen-age youth revolutionary is asking today: “How can I be unique just like everybody else?”

Because this joke can be expressed in many ways it has been difficult to trace, and the existence of instances before 1971 would be unsurprising to QI.

An exact match for the saying under investigation was printed in a 1979 compilation from John Peers with a remarkably long title: “1,001 Logical Laws, Accurate Axioms, Profound Principles, Trusty Truisms, Homey Homilies, Colorful Corollaries, Quotable Quotes, and Rambunctious Ruminations for All Walks of Life”: 2

Meade’s Maxim:
Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

Note that Peers labeled the adage “Meade’s Maxim” and not “Mead’s Maxim”. In addition, sometimes Peers selected a label for comical effect, e.g.: 3

The Skier’s Rumination:
Don’t ever eat yellow snow.

So, the saying may not even be solidly linked to someone named Meade.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1971 March 13, Dallas Morning News, On Second Thought: By the Numbers: I, II, III, Nonconform! by Jim Wright, Section: D, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Dallas, Texas. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1979, 1,001 Logical Laws, Accurate Axioms, Profound Principles, Compiled by John Peers, Edited by Gordon Bennett, Quote Page 155, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1979, 1,001 Logical Laws, Accurate Axioms, Profound Principles, Compiled by John Peers, Edited by Gordon Bennett, Quote Page 85, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)