Disputing "Eleanor Roosevelt's" "Great Minds" Quote
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." — Eleanor Roosevelt
From the start, I didn't think this quote sounded like something Eleanor Roosevelt would say. (I would think she was too caught up promoting human rights to get down to categorizing people in a demeaning way like that.) Apparently my hunch was right: The quote is almost surely misattributed. Of course, it's usually very difficult to prove that a particular person never said a certain string of words, but it's certain in this case that they at least did not originate with Eleanor. (This is why I have "Eleanor Roosevelt" in scare quotes in the title.)
While some people may find this quote appealing—and I may have even liked it in the past—now I don't think it's a positive saying at all. Let me explain.
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
For starters, this is insulting to anyone who discusses people—and most of us do. In fact, I seriously doubt there are many people who never discuss people, and those who do probably live lonely lives. Discussing ideas is awesome, and I encourage everyone to do that more often, but what do ideas matter except in the context of how they affect people?
I admit the quote makes some sense if you view it in terms of the news: That way, you could be criticizing the attention that people give celebrities, for example. A would-be journalist who's caught up on personalities and won't address the deeper ideas impacting society is worthy of rebuke.
|some fake office with a negative wall|
Please tell me what you think of this quote. Am I misinterpreting it? Am I giving it a hard time? Even if they're popular, I think some pithy quotes are worthy of a second thought, and perhaps a decision not to use them.