Tagore makes a (uncredited) Congressional cameo

Actor Martin Sheen (The West Wing, Apocalypse Now) spoke before a Congressional briefing last week in favor of funding for drug courts.

The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column singled out this section of his “heartfelt, yet grandiose oratory”:

“A dream that helps lift up this nation and all its people to a place where the heart is without fear and the head is held high and knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls where words come out from the depths of truth and tireless driving stretches its arms towards perfection where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way to dreary desert sands of dead habit.”

Sound familiar? As the Reliable Source pointed out in a follow-up column, Sheen forgot to note that he was quoting from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali.

It looks like the mistake was inadvertent. Sheen quoted the same Tagore excerpt during a 2008 speech at Notre Dame and promptly devoted the next paragraph to explaining who Tagore was.

Sheen first became familiar with the poem while filming the movie Gandhi in 1981.

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