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 May 24, 2009
Bully Pulpit

The term “bully pulpit” was coined by Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), as he was leaving his last term in the White House. The term first appears in a February 27, 1909 Outlook profile of President Roosevelt:

HALF a dozen of us were with the President in his library. He was sitting at his desk reading to us his forthcoming Message. He had just finished a paragraph of a distinctly ethical character, when he suddenly stopped, swung round in his swizel chair, and said: “I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!”

“Bully” means “good,” “fine” or “swell.” The term “bully pulpit” became popular again in the 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy used the Roosevelt quotation to describe the office of the presidency. “Bully pulpit” has been applied to other jobs—such as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York City—where the position has much more prestige than actual power.


Wikipedia: Bully pulpit
A bully pulpit is a public office of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter. The bully pulpit can bring issues to the forefront that were not initially in debate, due to the office’s stature and publicity.

This term was coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to the White House as a “bully pulpit,” by which he meant a terrific platform from which to advocate an agenda. Roosevelt famously used the word bully as an adjective meaning “superb” or “wonderful” (a more common expression in his time than it is today); the term has no relationship to the noun bully, i.e. a harasser or someone who intimidates.

Unfortunately, due to the archaic nature of the adjective “bully” and the religious symbolism of the word pulpit (the elevated platform used by a preacher), this phrase is often misunderstood as a pejorative. This misinterpretation implies intimidation and, possibly, an abuse of authority. An example of this would be the sentence: “He uses his job as a bully pulpit, regaling his subordinates with his political opinions as part of their morning meetings.”

The office of archbishop of New York has sometimes been called “bully pulpit” because of its importance within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

Wikipedia: Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt (pronounced /ˈroʊzəvɛlt/; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), also known as T.R., and to the public (but never to friends and intimates) as Teddy, was the 26th President of the United States. A leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Party, he was a Governor of New York and a professional historian, naturalist, explorer, hunter, author, and soldier. He is most famous for his personality: his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his “cowboy” image. Originating from a story from one of Roosevelt’s hunting expeditions, teddy bears are named after him.

As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt prepared for and advocated war with Spain in 1898. He organized and helped command the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment—the Rough Riders—during the Spanish-American War. Returning to New York as a war hero, he was elected governor. An avid writer, his 35 books include works on outdoor life, natural history, the American frontier, political history, naval history, and his autobiography.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: bully pulpit
Function: noun
Date: 1976
: a prominent public position (as a political office) that provides an opportunity for expounding one’s views ; also : such an opportunity

(Oxford English Dictionary)
bully pulpit U.S. Pol., a public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue.
App. orig. used by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt to explain his personal view of the presidency.
1909 Outlook (N.Y.) 27 Feb. 430/1 He [sc. President Roosevelt]..swung round in his swivel chair, and said: ‘I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!’
1977 Newsweek 14 Feb. 23/3 Carter took to what Theodore Roosevelt once called the bully pulpit of the White House.
1988 B. & E. DOLE Doles ix. 227, I have used the bully pulpit to wage my own war on drunk driving.
1993 Coloradoan (Fort Collins) 16 Jan. A12/1 What power the governor had comes from good will and the ‘bully pulpit’ of the office.

Google Books
27 February 1909, The Outlook, pg. 430, col. 1:
A Review of President Roosevelt’s Administration
IV—Its Influence on patriotism and Public Service

By Lyman Abbott
HALF a dozen of us were with the President in his library. He was sitting at his desk reading to us his forthcoming Message. He had just finished a paragraph of a distinctly ethical character, when he suddenly stopped, swung round in his swizel chair, and said: “I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!” Then he turned back to his reading again. The episode is interpreatative of the man. he has been ranchman, administrator, soldier, politician, statesman—but always and everywhere a moral reformer. I think there are two reasons for his enjoyment of his presidential office; one, that it has enabled him to do things; the other, that it has given him a national platform from which to say things.

4 March 1909, New York (NY) Times, pg. 9, col. 3:
President ROOSEVELT, sitting at his desk, was reading to a few friends a forthcoming message. At the close of a paragraph “of a distinctly ethical character” he wheeled about and said: “I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!”

6 March 1909, New York (NY) Times, pg. 6, col. 5:
“THE BULLY PULPIT.”
Suggests This Name for Mr. Roose-
velt’s New Editorial Medium.
To the Editor of The New York Times:

Your editorial in to-day’s paper, “The Roosevelt Administration,” is one of the finest performances of one of the finest newspapers in the world. It is a comprehensive, fair, balanced summing up that does credit to a paper that has not hesitated to speak against Mr. Roosevelt when his acts and words required it.

The incident quoted as recorded by Dr. Lyman Abbott is most suggestive. In view of Mr. Roosevelt’s coming connection with Dr. Abbott’s weekly digest of current opinion and events, I would herewith suggest that its name be changed from The Outlook to “The Bully Pulpit.” Its motto could be “I have got such a bully pulpit!” with Mr. Roosevelt’s name appended.

To be sure, this would be a far cry from the dear old title, The Christian Union, which its founder, Henry Ward Beecher, gave it, but never mind. Quoted from the elegant verbiage of so great a man, it ought to make the paper as much richer than it now is so the other change of title—effected for purposes of business policy—made The Outlook richer than the old Christian Union.
A. W. M.
Metuchen, N. J., March 6, 1909.

Google Books
The Bully Pulpit: the presidential leadership of Ronald Reagan
By William Ker Muir
Published by ICS Press
1992

Google Books
The Bully Pulpit
By Andrew Goldblatt
Published by Bantam Books
1992

Google Books
The Bully Pulpit: The Politics of Protestant Clergy
By James L. Gut, John C. Green, Corwin E. Smidt, Lyman A. Kellstedt, Margaret M. Poloma
Published by University Press of Kansas
1998

Access my Library
Of Many Things.(Cardinal John O’Connor of New York )(Brief Article)
Publication: America
Publication Date: 13-MAY-00
Author: Reese, Thomas J.
Although not unexpected, the death of Cardinal John O’Connor of New York marks the end of an era in the American Catholic Church. Without question, he was the most powerful American cardinal of his generation.

New York makes a bully pulpit for any archbishop with talent and chutzpah, and Cardinal O’Connor had lots of both. He was never afraid to speak out, even when it might upset powerful people and groups. He was liked by most New Yorkers, who respect a man who says what he thinks, even when they disagree.

PBS: Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly
PROFILE:
Bishop Edward Egan
June 16, 2000 Episode no. 342
BOB ABERNETHY: The influential, diverse Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York installs its new archbishop this week, Edward Michael Egan. The 68-year-old Egan, successor to Cardinal John O’Connor, is described as learned, conservative, and a hands-on manager who knows how to make difficult decisions. He’ll have to make a lot of them as he deals with the money problems and the priest shortage in the nation’s third largest archdiocese. Jim Melchiorre has a report on the man who’s becoming what Pope John Paul II has called archbishop of the most powerful country in the world.
(...)
Mr. SCOTT APPLEBY (University of Notre Dame): It’s the media capital of the world, it’s the historic center, in many ways, of American Catholicism, and it is the bully pulpit for the Church. Also, it’s had a tradition of frank-speaking, politically shrewd, colorful leaders.

Google Books
The Bully Pulpit: A Teddy Roosevelt Book of Quotations
By H. Paul Jeffers
Published by Taylor Trade Publishing
2002

Google Books
My Turn at the Bully Pulpit:
Straight talk about the things that drive me nuts

By Greta Van Susteren with Elaine Lafferty
Published by Crown
2003

Google Books
On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit
By George C. Edwards, III
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, May 24, 2009 • Permalink