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Old 12 July 2015, 07:54 AM
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Chris J Chris J is offline
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Default Haile Selassie: "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow."

The statement in the thread title is a famous prophetic quote that's associated with a speech that Haile Selassie made before the League of Nations on June 30, 1936. The context being, the League couldn't stop our country from being invaded, and it won't be able to stop yours from being invaded either. Of course he'd be proven right when WWII breaks out a few years later.

I'd just always assumed this line came from the speech because other sources said it did, it appears in hundreds of books with minor variations that I'll get to in a bit. Most Questionable Quotes don't come from easily verifiable public speeches where the time and place is known! It's just an agreed thing that he said this... right?

But... I just looked at the transcript of the speech, and the quote is not in there. Here is a scan of a physical copy of the speech from the League of Nations archives. Click on the photo on the left to see it. Note the United Nations Library stamp on the back page. That's as official as it's gonna get.

The text is in Amharic on the left and French on the right. There are English translations of the speech out there on the web, but all the ones I've found omit the introduction where Selassie says he would have liked to speak in French, but will be speaking in Amharic so he could speak his mind from his heart. I guess the official website of the Crown Council of Ethiopia offers as official an English translation as can be found.

Okay, so the prophetic quote is not there. What happened? Taking a closer look at a couple of those hundreds of books:

The African State in a Changing Global Context: Breakdowns and Transformations

On the 30st (sic) of June, 1936 Haile Selassie arrived in Geneva and gave a far-famed and widely cited speech warning other countries against Fascist propaganda. His famous opening words - "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow" - circuited the newspapers.
Not in the speech and I can't find it in any contemporary newspaper archives at all. I'll admit that's just going by archives that aren't hidden behind paywalls on the web, though.

The History of Ethiopia
The emperor's final statement, "It is us today. It will be you tomorrow," has been described as the final epitaph of the impotent League of Nations.
So it's the final statement of the speech, now? It's not a confidence builder when sources disagree like this.

1975 New York Times obituary

As Haile Selassie concluded what was certainly his saddest (and greatest) hour and moved from the tribunal to a scatter of embarrassed applause, he murmured:

"It is us today. It will be you tomorrow."
"Murmured?" Like an off-the-record thing as he was leaving? That seems a bit suspicious, like a made-up way to explain why it's not in the speech. There's newsreel footage of him walking off as he finished the speech and I see nothing there to support any claim of him murmuring anything.

I'm thinking this quote got attributed to him some time later because it was not out of line with the spirit of the speech and it's something somebody wished he had said. I guess there's also a chance he really did say it, but just not during this speech. I'm wondering how far back the quote has been attributed to him in print. The earliest I can do is Leonard Mosley's biography of Selassie in 1965.

Any snopesters have anything else to contribute on this?
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