We thought we had found the perfect quote for our new breakroom wall, and were doubly proud that we had the art approved and executed in time for our March open house to show off our new headquarters space in Raleigh.
It was vintage Dr. Seuss. It captured the importance of our work with earnestness and the right dose of whimsy to strike the perfect chord in the space where our team breaks bread and assembles informally.
Except there was one thing wrong: we later learned that Dr. Seuss was considered a bigot.
How could this be, you ask? How is it that our public libraries across the land haven’t set the skylines aglow with an endless bonfire of book burnings?
Why, the very day we finished the wall the world was celebrating his birthday, with social media lauding his every rhyme and illustration. There was a national reading program featuring Dr. Seuss that very week, involving hundreds of thousands of children throughout the country.
Why didn’t they know this?
Well, one reason is that it’s complicated. Look it up. His views as captured online run the gamut, both reviled by some or weakly justified by others.
Maybe, like us, the world hasn’t researched the character of Dr. Seuss because we have all been naïve. Like Cindy Lou Hoo’s misplaced regard for the Grinch, we trusted Dr. Seuss.
After crowing about our wall on social media and accepting the kudos of open house guests on how neat the giant quote wall looked, we received an email from one of our associates who said it had been brought to her attention, by another bewildered former fan, that Dr. Seuss’ heart was, perhaps, three sizes too small.
Links were provided to his early work that made our skin crawl.
After looking into this, we could do only one thing: take the quote down. Now our giant quote wall is bare, sans inspiration. Sans whimsy.
But I don’t see a bare wall. I see signs of an organization that did the right thing. I am proud that we acted quickly and decisively and without looking back. There is no justification. Even complicated, later-in-life changes of heart and philosophy don’t combine to make it okay for a public-facing community organization to promote an artist who once held views based on hate and racial supremacy.
Are we at NCCF perfect? Are we preaching? Are we holier than thou? Absolutely not. But we always try to do the right thing when we’re aware of a mistake, and this was a no-brainer.
Maybe we’ll consider covering the blank wall with that neat blackboard paint and let all of us put up doodles and our own quotes …