The Evolution of Rod Blagojevich's Favorite Phrase

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Back in 1967, tough-talking Chicago journalist Mike Royko concocted a new slogan for the City of Strong Shoulders—"Ubi Est Mea," or: "Where's mine?"

Although Mike's phrase has had a good run, I think it's time the Windy City got a new Latin M.O., inspired by Illinois' favorite windbag, Governor Rod Blagojevich.

"Carpe Momento," or: "Seize the moment."

A look back at Blago's political career reveals a certain fondness for these rather tragically clichéd words—not only did he employ them during his State of the State Address in 2004, 2005 and 2007, but also on myriad occasions throughout his political career: from urging action in restricting gun sales to fixing the city's crumbling transit system.

My personal favorite utterance, however, occurred in 2003, when Blago pledged to tackle state corruption: "We have to seize this moment and enact meaningful ethics reform," Blagojevich said. "After all we've been through, we cannot expect the people just instinctively to trust their government."

Truer—or more ironic—words were never spoken.

According to recent events, it seems the only carpe dieming the Gov. has been up to has involved seizing the moment to ask "Ubi Est Mea?"

Before we close the book on Royko's words of wicked wisdom, let's take a look back at the history of Blago's favored phrase: from its blissful conception, to its rather more spotted current state.

Carpe Diem

Once upon a time, before "seize the moment" adorned posters plastered with frolicking kittens and parachutes and the like, people actually used the original Latin words—and a bigger increment of time: "Carpe Diem," or: "Seize the day." The phrase came courtesy of poet Horativs Flaccvs, and basically means: Life is short; enjoy it. Blago could take a scroll from Horace's book at this point in time—at least with regard to his governorship.

"Seize the moment of excited curiosity on any subject to solve your doubts; for if you let it pass, the desire may never return, and you may remain in ignorance."

In 1833, US Attorney General William Wirt shared this sentiment with Mr. H.W. Miller, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was after some advice on the mysteries of success. At this junction, the meaning of "Carpe Diem" drifts a bit farther away from fun and spontaneity, and closer to the smashing of noses to grindstones.

"Seize the Day"

Published in 1956 by Saul Bellow, this novella tells the tale of Tommy Wilhelm, a man on the hunt for the elusive American Dream. The phrase acquires an even stronger taste of shoe leather here—smacking of utter boot-strappery.

So many deeds cry out to be done,
And always urgently;
The world rolls on,
Time presses.
Ten thousand years are too long,
Seize the day, seize the hour!

Mao Zedong's famous poem, "Reply to Comrade Guo Moruo," penned in 1961, added a decidedly warlike edge to the phrase as it boosted Communism. It also inspired the next usage on our list"¦

Seize the Moment: America's Challenge in a One-Superpower World

nixon.jpg

Nixon's book, published in 1992, is all about America's future: how the US should handle the end of the Cold War, the fall of Communism, etc, etc. More importantly, it cemented the term in the political realm—especially since old Tricky Dick had made good use of it in the past, particularly in his 1971 State of the Union Address. Guess Nixon and Blago have more in common than the specter of impeachment.

January 15, 2009 - 4:55am
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