October 12, 2017

“Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.”

JFK, Desert Fox, Count Ciano

“There’s and old saying that victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.”
       John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
       American Democratic politician; 35th President of the United States             
His widely-cited comment at a press conference on April 21, 1961 that helped popularize the saying in the U.S.
       This was part of Kennedy’s response to a question journalist Sander Vanocor asked about the recent, failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba. Kennedy gained credibility by acknowledging that, although the C.I.A., American military officials, and many anti-Castro Cubans were involved in planning the operation, he had approved it and accepted the ultimate responsibility for its failure.
       According to a letter JFK’s advisor Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. sent to language maven William Safire, Kennedy didn’t recall where he’d heard the saying. However, as Safire and other quotation researchers have noted, it’s likely that Kennedy got it from watching the 1951 movie about German General Erwin Rommel, The Desert Fox.
       In the film, scripted by Nunally Johnson, Nazi Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (played by actor Leo G. Carroll), says to Rommel (actor James Mason): “You must never forget this, my dear fellow: victory has a hundred fathers, defeat is an orphan.”
       Nunally adapted the line from a quote recoded in the 1950 book the film was based on, Rommel: The Desert Fox by Desmond Young. In the book, Young notes that on September 9, 1942, Count Gian Galeazzo Ciano, the son-in-law and Foreign Minister of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, wrote in his diary: “Victory always finds a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.”
       Some reference books about proverbs suggest that Ciano may have been using or paraphrasing an existing proverbial saying. It is sometimes given as “Victory has a thousand fathers…”  

Giants & Mondays suck

“The Giants are bad. You might have heard...It is said that victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan. I am proud to report that the Giants’ misery is unlikely ever to see the inside of the great baseball orphanage. An entire, many-armed-and-legged village of Suck has raised the 2017 Giants; there are so many sources of horror that it is difficult to choose which one to consider after any given loss.”
Claire McNear
       Staff writer for the sports and entertainment website TheRinger.com
       In a June 27, 2017 post about the San Francisco Giants mind-bogglingly horrible season

Battle of the Sexes movie poster

“It’s been said that victory has a hundred fathers but failure is an orphan, and in a way the reverse is true of true story narratives. When they suck there’s blame to go around and a million causes — the unearned creative liberties, the important points unfairly omitted, the obvious elements unnecessarily fussed over. When they’re good it seems preordained, as if God told the story and all you had to do was write it down.”
       Vince Mancini
       American writer, comedian, podcaster and movie critic
       In his review of the 2017 movie Battle of the Sexes on the Uproxx.com website. (He put it in the “good” true story narratives category.)

Startup CEO book

“It’s never hard to collect candidates to take credit for success...The flip side of that, though, is that failure is not an orphan. Companies that have a culture of blame and denial eventually go down in flames.”
       Matt Blumberg
       American technology and marketing entrepreneur and writer
       An observation he makes in his book Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business (2013)

Donald E. Abelson

“As many have claimed, every successful policy idea has a hundred mothers and fathers; every bad idea is an orphan.”
       Donald E. Abelson
       Professor & Chair of the Western University Political Science at Western university in Ontario, Canada
       In the book The Myth of the Sacred: The Charter, the Courts, and the Politics of the Constitution in Canada (2002)

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