Noland apologizes for borrowing from JFK speech

  • State Sen. Michael Noland

    State Sen. Michael Noland

Updated 12/3/2010 4:54 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- In a speech on the Senate floor in favor of allowing civil unions, state Sen. Mike Noland noted eloquently that "the rights of everyone are diminished when the rights of any one of us are threatened."

But the phrase and others in the speech sounded familiar to some who pointed out similarities to a 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy.


Reached by phone Friday, Noland apologized.

"It was an attribution that I should have made, and I did not," said Noland, an Elgin Democrat.

"I didn't. I should have. And I apologize," Noland said.

The similarities were first pointed out by the Illinois politics blog Capitol Fax.

Noland said a colleague pointed out that he hadn't attributed the speech to Kennedy.

One example of the similarities:

Noland said, "Our nation was founded, Mr. President, upon the principle that with the respect to our pursuit of happiness each of us are created equal one to another and that the rights of everyone are diminished when the rights of any one of us are threatened."

From Kennedy's June 11, 1963 civil rights address to the nation:

"This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened."

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Later, Noland said:

"Again, legislation cannot solve this problem on discrimination, it must be solved in the homes, in the hearts of every citizen, in every community across this great state."

Kennedy had said:

"But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country."

And in another passage, Noland commented, "We owe them and we owe ourselves and our children a better state than that."

Kennedy, in his speech, said: "I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that."

Hours after Noland apologized in a phone interview, he sent an e-mail statement to reporters praising Kennedy's speech and again saying he should have credited the former president. But he also said he wouldn't change his floor speech at all.


"I did not, however, plagiarize his speech," Noland said in the statement. "I did not copy the speech and claim it as my own work. No one could (reasonably) expect to do that successfully with such a famous speech. I am extremely proud of the speech I gave and the vote we took... I believe in every word of my speech. I would not change a word of that speech."

Noland delivered his version from the Senate floor Wednesday, during a somewhat lengthy debate over the controversial civil unions proposal.

Kennedy delivered the original to call for the eventual Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made racial discrimination illegal.

Noland said he thought Kennedy's remarks were appropriate for the present-day debate over gay rights.

"That was the message I wanted to get across," he said.


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