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June 27, 2022

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Letter: Quote from Humphrey, not Gandhi

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In his Oct. 27 letter, “Prop. 1 helps homeless kids,” Denny Scott quoted Gandhi as saying: “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.” A related quote, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest member,” is also attributed to Gandhi.

According to quotation sleuth Ralph Keyes (Author of “The Quote Verifier”), Gandhi never said or wrote these words. Another is often cited by animal-rights organizations as part of a speech by Gandhi in 1931: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” According to Keyes, the words can’t be found in that speech.

At the Hubert Humphrey Building dedication, Nov. 1, 1977, in Washington, D.C., former vice president Humphrey spoke about the treatment of the weakest members of society as a reflection of a government: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

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