As you may or may not have noticed, when President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office on August 31, he unveiled a new decorating scheme. As Sheryl Gay Stolberg put it in her blog on nytimes.com, “The Oval Office has gotten a makeover.”
As part of the re-do, the rug was replaced with “a more muted, mostly wheat and cream-colored carpet featuring the presidential seal in the center, and ringed on its edge with five quotations selected by Mr. Obama….” They are:
- “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King Jr.
- “Government of the People, By the People, For the People” – President Abraham Lincoln
- “No Problem of Human Destiny Is Beyond Human Beings” – President John F. Kennedy
- “The Welfare of Each of Us Is Dependent Fundamentally Upon the Welfare of All of Us” – President Theodore Roosevelt
I can only surmise that President Obama finds these quotes sufficiently inspiring that he wants them to be a permanent part of his surroundings in this highly visible, symbolic setting. As he welcomes visitors to the Oval Office, I imagine he expects they, too, will be moved and inspired. And he must feel strongly enough about these words that he is willing to be identified by them publicly.
Christian Scientists have a similar tradition. In decorating our churches, we choose one of three quotations to post on a wall, to inspire any and all who visit. They are all taken from our denominational text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
- “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” – Mary Baker Eddy
- “Christianity is again demonstrating the Life that is Truth, and the Truth that is Life.” – Mary Baker Eddy
- “Jesus’ three days’ work in the sepulchre set the seal of eternity on time. He proved Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate.” – Mary Baker Eddy
Christian Scientists and non-Christian Scientists alike have found inspiration in these words since they first started being displayed on the walls of our churches, more than 100 years ago. Like the quotations on the Oval Office carpet, they come from an earlier time; and like those on the president’s carpet, each conveys a universal message that speaks to a need of today.
Though I’ve never been there, I can’t help thinking that anyone who walks into the Oval Office expects to engage in a higher level of discourse — and the quotations there may have the intended effect of elevating the thoughts of those conversing there.
Similarly, one enters a church seeking a level of interaction that rises above the human — indeed, a holy communion with the Divine. And the words on the walls of a Christian Science church can prepare the seeker to hear and receive divine inspiration.