Television viewers who watched day two of the Democratic National Convention may have noticed signs with the words “Do All the Good” blanketing the crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. If they tuned in to day three, they probably heard vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine tell the crowd that he and Hillary Clinton “share this belief: Do all the good you can.”
But it wasn’t until Hillary Clinton delivered her acceptance speech Thursday night as the Democratic presidential nominee that they heard both the longer phrase she uses and its significance. Her late mother, Clinton said, “made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith: ‘Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.’”
Like many Methodist kids, Clinton would have been taught the famous saying in church. Methodists usually attribute the words to John Wesley, one of the 18th century founders of the denomination, although as with the many apocryphal sayings of St. Francis, there’s no evidence that Wesley ever said or wrote the words.
Regardless of their provenance, the creed informs the strong social justice tradition in many Methodist congregations, including the First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge, Ill., which Clinton attended growing up. She has spoken often of Don Jones, the youth minister at that church whose mentorship sparked her conversion from a Goldwater Girl to a liberal who learned, in her words, to “embrace faith in action.”
On the campaign trail in 2016, Clinton has embraced the phrase as well, weaving it into her victory speech the night of Super Tuesday and reviving it again the night she clinched the delegates required to win the Democratic nomination.
Closing the Democratic National Convention after Clinton’s speech, Methodist minister William Shillady couldn’t resist working the famous saying — this time in full — into his benediction:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
(Cover tile photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)