A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“To be yourself in a world trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” (5/24)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (5/24)
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Entry from May 24, 2015
“To be yourself in a world trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”

The American poet Edward Estlin (E. E.) Cummings (1894-1962) wrote in “A Poet’s Advice” (1958):

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” has been credited to American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) since at least 1994, but there is no evidence that he ever said it.


Wikiquote: E. E. Cummings
Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14 1894 – September 3 1962) was a noted American poet. Because of the typography used in many of his works it has become a widespread tradition for his name to be presented in lower case as e. e. cummings, though he himself continued to use uppercase letters in signing his own name.
(...)
A Poet’s Advice (1958)
“A Poet’s Advice to Students” in E. E. Cummings, a Miscellany: A Miscellany (1958), edited by George James Firmage, p. 13
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel …
the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

Wikiquote: Talk: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Unsourced
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
. This seems to be a misattribution of a passage from E.E. Cummings’s A Poet’s Advice: “To be nobody - but -yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else--means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

19 November 1962, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “To Be a Poet: Feel, Work, Fight,” pg. 4, cols. 4-5:
Poet E. E. Cummings, in a letter to a school senior who asked for advice in writing poetry
(...)
To be nobody but yourself—in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

Google Groups: alt.quotations
SCDOWN
Jim Offord
4/29/94
Not Emerson, doubtful Tocqueville (SCDOWN)

In article , (G. L.
Sicherman) wrote:
> In <1994Apr26.2...@hulaw1.harvard.edu>, rrader@hulaw1 wrote:
> >I’m looking for two quotes’ exact wording and citation…
> >
> >“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you
> >something else is the greatest accomplishment.” --Emerson
I have the following in my file of quotations:

to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
e.e. cummings

Google Books
Business Creativity:
Breaking the Invisible Barriers

By Arthur Gogatz and Reuben Mondeja
New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
2005
Pg. 112:
To be yourself, in a world that is doing its best to bully you into being somebody else, is not easy.

Google Books
Be Special, Be Yourself for Teenagers
By Ronit Baras
BeHappyinLIFE.com
2005
Pg. 8:
To be yourself, in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Sunday, May 24, 2015 • Permalink


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