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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Entry from January 16, 2012
“Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened”

Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947), the president of Columbia University who Butler Library is named after, spoke before the University of California on March 23, 1931:

“The vast population of this earth, and indeed nations themselves, may readily be divided into three groups. There are the few who make things happen, the many more who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no notion of what happens. Every human being is born into this third and largest group; it is for himself, his environment and his education, to determine whether he shall rise to the second group or even to the first.”

The “three groups/kinds/types of people” saying has been used in business and government, usually with the advice that a leader is the one “who makes things happen.” Since the 1970s, the saying has been frequently—and incorrectly—credited to John W. Newbern, an author from the Sales Research Institute.


Wikipedia: Nicholas Murray Butler
Nicholas Murray Butler (April 2, 1862 – December 7, 1947) was an American philosopher, diplomat, and educator. Butler was president of Columbia University, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He became so well-known and respected that The New York Times printed his Christmas greeting to the nation every year.

OCLC WorldCat record
These United States; an address delivered before the University of California, Berkeley, California, on Charter day, March 23, 1931,
Author: Nicholas Murray Butler
Publisher: [New York, N.Y., 1931]

1 April 1931, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, pg. 20, col. 3:
Gleaned from Many Fields
Three Groups.

(Nicholas Murray Butler.)
The vast population of this earth, and indeed nations themselves, may readily be divided into three groups. There are the few who make things happen, the many more who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no notion of what happens. Every human being is born into this third and largest group; it is for himself, his environment and his education, to determine whether he shall rise to the second group or even to the first.

Google Books
Looking forward; what will the American people do about it? Essays and addresses on matters national and international
By Nicholas Murray Butler
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
1932
Pg. 17:
THESE UNITED STATES
On this very day twenty-four years ago, it was my privilege to speak before the University of California on Charter Day. The topic at that time was “True and False Democracy.” An attempt was then made to appraise the new forces which were at work in the political and economic life of the world and to indicate the path of true progress toward the protection and development of liberty and in building institutions that are truly democratic upon steadily strengthening foundations. The eternal warfare between the struggle for liberty and the theory of equality was pointed to as offering the surest clue to an understanding of what was then taking place throughout the world. The well-nigh quarter-century which has elapsed has been eventful to a degree which is without precedent.  No man in his senses would have dared twenty-five years ago to predict the sort and kind of happeneings that have held the world in their grip almost from that time to this. And the end is not yet by any means.

The vast population of this earth, and indeed nations themselves, may readily be divided into three groups. There are the few who make things happen, the many more who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no notion of what happens. Every human being is born into this third and largest group; it is for himself, his environment and his education to determine whether he shall rise to the second group or even to the first.

Google Books
Oral Hygiene
Volume 22
1932
Pg. 1493:
Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University and Nobel Prize winner, in an address delivered at the University of California, made the following statement: “This world consists of three classes of people: a very few who make things happen, the many more who watch things happen, and the overwhelming majority who have no notion at all as to what is going on in this world.”

Google Books
October 1953, Popular Science, pg. 204, col. 2:
Three Kinds of People
People can be placed into three classes: the few who make things happen; the many who watch things happen; and the overwhelming majority who have no idea what has happened.
-- White Plains Reporter-Dispatch

Google News Archive
5 December 1963, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), “Today’s Chuckle,” pg. 1, col. 7:
There are three kinds of people—those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who have no idea what happens.

Google News Archive
17 December 1971, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)
Opportunity, pg. 4, col. 7:
People can be divided into three groups—those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. (John W. Newbern)

Google News Archive
25 May 1975, The Press-Courier (Oxnard, CA), “Heloise” column, pg. 15, col. 1:
DEAR HELOISE: There are three types of people:
1. Those who make things happen
2. Those who watch things happen
3. Those who sit by and don’t know what’s happening.
Leo Singer

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • (0) Comments • Monday, January 16, 2012 • Permalink