More from and about
Harry Emerson Fosdick
(biographical info at bottom of page)

  

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says
it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.

   

Those who know no hardships will know no hardihood.  Those who face no calamity will need no courage.  Mysterious though it is, the characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.
  
  
The most extraordinary thing about the oyster is this. Irritation gets into his shell. He does not like them. But when he cannot get rid of them he uses the irritation to do the lovelist thing an oyster ever has the chance to do. If there are irritations in our lives today, there is only one prescription:  make a pearl. It may have to be a pearl of patience, but make a pearl.

      
People will work hard for money. They will work harder for other people. But people will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause. Until willingness overflows obligation, people fight as conscripts rather than following the flag as patriots. Duty is never worthily performed until it is performed by one who would gladly do more if only he or she could.
  
Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world — making the most of one’s best.
  
  
No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined.  No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled.  No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.  One of the widest gaps in human experience is the gap between what we say we want to be and our willingness to discipline ourselves to get there.
   

Whatever the situation and however disheartening it may be, it is a great hour when a person ceases adopting difficulties as an excuse for despondency and tackles him- or herself as the real problem.  No mood need be our master.

     

I'd rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than
live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.

   

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Democracy is based upon the conviction that there
are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.

   

Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute
immeasurably to success. Great living starts with a picture, held
in your imagination, of what you would like to do or be.

   

Peace is an awareness of reserves from beyond ourselves, so that
our power is not so much in us as through us. Peace is the gift, not
of volitional struggle, but of spiritual hospitality.

   
    
Harry Emerson Fosdick (1879-1969) American clergyman, b. Buffalo, N.Y., graduated from Colgate University, 1900, and Union Theological Seminary, 1904.  Ordained a Baptist minister in 1903.  Fosdick was the most prominent liberal baptist minister of the early 20th Century.  He was Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church on West Twelfth Street and then at historic Riverside Church (formerly Park Avenue Baptist Church) in New York City.

Fosdick became a central figure in the conflict between fundamentalist and liberal forces within American Protestantism in the 1920s and 1930s.  While at First Presbyterian Church, on May 12, 1922, he delivered his famous sermon "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" in which he defended the modernist position.  In that sermon he presented the Bible as record of the unfolding of God's will, not as the literal Word of God.  He saw the history of Christianity as one of development, progress, and gradual change. To the fundamentalists, this was rank apostasy, and the battle lines were drawn.

Dr. Fosdick was an outspoken opponent of racism and injustice. Fosdick also supported appeasement of Hitler and argued "moral equivalence", i.e. that the democracies were largely to blame for the rise of fascism:  "the all but unanimous judgment seems to be that we, the democracies, are just as responsible for the rise of the dictators as the dictatorships themselves, and perhaps more so."

Fosdick's sermons won him wide recognition, as did his radio addresses which were nationally broadcast. He authored numerous books, and many of his sermon collections are still in print. He is also the author of the hymn, "God of Grace and God of Glory".

Fosdick had a daughter Dorothy Fosdick who was foreign policy adviser to Henry M. Jackson.
  

  

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