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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“Why is NASCAR a white dominated sport?"/"They’re all racists.” (5/28)
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Entry from October 15, 2014
“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized that I am somebody”

"I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized that I am somebody” is a popular saying of unknown authorship. *I waited for somebody to do something. Then I realized I was somebody” was cited in January 1972. “I asked, ‘Why doesn’t somebody do something,’ then realized I Was somebody” was cited in the Christian Herald in 1972. The “I was somebody” form has been cited first, before “I am somebody.” “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something—then I realized I am somebody” was cited in 1978.

The saying was originally popular in churches, but later became popular with political activists. “Peace” sometimes is added. “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something for peace.... Then I realized that I am somebody. — Anonymous” was cited in a 1984 book. 

American actress Lily Tomlin (or her writing partner, Jane Wagner) has been credited with the saying since 1996, but there is no evidence that Tomlin/Wagner originated it.


12 January 1972, The Dubois County Daily Herald (Jasper, IN), “Three Minutes a Day” by Richard Armstrong, pg. 4, col. 2:
It has been said:

*I waited for somebody to do something. Then I realized I was somebody.”

Google Books
Christian Herald
Volume 95
1972
Pg. 46:
I Asked, “Why Doesn’t Somebody Do Something,” Then Realized I Was Somebody
Myra Hargrave Comiskey

22 July 1975, The Daily News (Olathe, KS), pg. 7, col. 1 ad:
I Asked
‘Why Doesn’t Somebody Do Something?’
Then I Realized I Was Somebody.

(Olathe Christian Church,—ed.)

3 June 1976, The Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS), “Letters to the Editor,” pg. A-4, col. 3:
A friend gave me a leaflet containing a number of sayings and one of the best was “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something, then I realized I was somebody.”
(...)
CASSANDRA
Biloxi

Google News Archive
10 June 1976, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “Shop with Sue,” pg. 7, col. 6 ad:
I wondered why somebody didn’t do something, then I realized that I was somebody.

Google News Archive
17 June 1976, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “Letters to the Editor,” pg. 4, col. 3:
There is a saying: “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something, and then I realized that I was somebody.”
(...)
DON ADAMS.
Spokane

Google News Archive
15 September 1976, Luddington (MI) Daily News, “Dear Abby” by Abigail Van Buren, pg. 4, col. 5:
I keep a motto on my desk at work that explains my attitude about life now. It says: “I WONDERED WHY SOMEBODY DIDN’T DO SOMETHING. THEN I REALIZED THAT I WAS SOMEBODY.” (Anonymous)

Thanks for listening. God bless you, Abby, and all the people who listen to you.
MARLENE

Google News Archive
13 June 1978, The Daily News (Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands), “Letters,” pg. 6, col. 3:
There is a saying I have always liked, “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something—then I realized I am somebody.” Troubles are often opportunities in work clothes—let’s get cracking!!
J. D. EICHEL
St. Thomas, V. I.

Google Books
The Single Parent
Volume 23
1980
Pg. 31, col. 2:
Somebody should do something...
“I said somebody should do something, then I realized I am somebody.” This statement, printed on a cloth designed to hang decoratively on a wall, really sounded appropriate and accurate as it ran through my mind recently.

Google Books
Abortion, the Silent Holocaust
By John Powell
Allen, TX: Tabor Pub.
1981
Pg. 159:
“It all seemed so wrong. I said to myself, ‘Somebody ought to do something about this!’ Then I realized that I am somebody.” —Anonymous

Google Books
Images of Peace
By Pat Corrick Hinton
Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press
1984
Pg. 72:
I wondered why somebody didn’t do something for peace....
Then I realized that I am somebody. — Anonymous

Google News Archive
21 October 1985, Boca Raton (FL) News, “Persuasive Delray leader beautifying suburbs” by Kate McClare, pg. 4A, col. 4:
Babich has another slogan on a plaque on the wall:

“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized that I am somebody.”

28 April 1992, Sandusky (OH) Register, “Volunteerism Shapes Lives,” Volunteerism sec., pg. 7, col. 1 ad:
“I kept waiting for somebody to do something and then I realized, I am somebody.”
(Sandusky International.—ed.)
Pg. 7, col. 4:
We all need to remember the quote: “I waited and waited for somebody to do something, then I finally realized I was somebody.”

Google Groups: hsv.general
Insurance company questions.
Paul F. Pearson
10/29/96
(...)
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that.  Then I realized I was somebody” —Lily Tomlin

Google Books
Walking the Talk Together:
Sharing the Responsibility for Bringing Values to Life

By Eric Harvey and Alexander Lucia
Dallas, TX: Performance Pub.
1998
Pg. ?:
I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.—Lily Tomlin

Google Books
Becoming a Teacher in the New Society:
Bringing Communities and Classrooms Together

By Elizabeth P. Quintero and Mary Kay Rummel
New York, NY: P. Lang
2000
Pg. 190:
I wondered why somebody didn’t do something for peace. Then I realized that I am somebody. — Anonymous

Google Books
Jokes and the Linguistic Mind
By Debra Aarons
New York, NY: Routledge
2012
Pg. 88:
I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.
(Lily Tomlin, 1939–)

Twitter
CDM
‏@RWSurferGirl
Patriot’s Creed:  “I thought that somebody should do something. . .  and then I realized that I am somebody!” #tcot
5:13 PM - 6 Sep 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, October 15, 2014 • Permalink