Count on George Will to build an entire column on a cheap half truth. I used to enjoy his columns but in recent years he’s turned bitter. And careless of how he used language and history. He’s got his underwear in a know again.
A few years back, according to the GOP punditocracy, Obama’s chief of staff spoke terrifying words! He said “we should never waste a crisis”. This of course, meant the sheets had to be pulled off the fainting couches yet again.
Not only was his comment not new, it has been the conventional wisdom for hundred of years; the Chinese use the same character for ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’. Seen below “the use has been adopted by business leaders and motivational speakers’. Because it’s true.
Benjamin Zimmer has traced the history of weiji in English as far back as anonymous editorial in a journal for missionaries in China. The use of the term probably gained momentum when John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Indianapolis on April 12, 1959:
- When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters.
- One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.
Kennedy employed this trope routinely in his speeches, and it was then appropriated by Richard M. Nixon and others. The usage has been adopted by business consultants and motivational speakers and has gained great popularity in universities and in the popular press. For example, in 2007, Condoleezza Rice used the meme during Middle East peace talks, and Al Gore did so both in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture.