English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the New York Times article of September 17 titled “Egghead and Blockheads,” Maureen Dowd introduces that GOP Presidential candidate, Rick Perry made light of his bad grades at Texas A&M in his speech to students of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Aside Perry’s acknowledgement that he ‘struggled with college, Dowd quotes Richard Oppel’s testimony that Perry’s D’s include Chemistry, the principles of economics, Shakespeare, Feeds & Feeding, Veterinary anatomy and Meat, plus C in Gym and one F in courses.

Dowd continues:

"It’s enough to make you long for W.’s Gentleman’s C’s. At least he was a mediocre student at Yale. - - -Perry told the students, “God uses broken people to reach a broken world.” What does that even mean?"

It is a great challenge for a foreign English learner to try to understand the line that even a reputed NYT columnist isn’t sure of. But I don’t think the America’s promising Presidential candidate spoke Greek to the university students.

My guess of Perry’s line, “God uses broken people to reach a broken world,” means that "the stressed country at the difficult time requires the ‘square-shouldered’ (cowboy type) brave leader who was hammered out of struggles (from collegehood) rather than an intellectual but Hamlet-type indecisive leader who kept being alpha plus at college." But I'm not sure at all. What is the correct interpretation of the “God uses broken people” line?

By the way, what is W in "W.’s Gentleman’s C’s."

share|improve this question
The line about 'broken' sounds like a common Christian sermon trope. Can anybody confirm that as a Bible reference? – Mitch Sep 18 '11 at 14:48
@Bill. Thank you for your answer. As I am interested in knowing ‘standardized’ Japanese translation of “God uses broken people ...,” I checked the Old Testament (Common translation) issued by Japan Bible Association, but found no scripture titled ‘Moses and David.’ Does it mean Exodus - the Second Book of Moses? Can you or somebody teach me in what (Xth) line of what chapter of what scripture Perry’s quote lies? – Yoichi Oishi Sep 18 '11 at 21:32
@YoichiOishi - I don't think it's an actual quote, but a concept. You won't find it in the Old Testament, since the article refers to Moses and David of Scripture (i.e. the Bible) - not to a particular passage of the Bible. The closest reference you will find to describe the concept in its correct context is in Acts 13:13-22 (especially verses 17 and 18). – Bill Sep 19 '11 at 0:05
Lol. You seem to have a theme going of asking questions trying to make sense of some of things said by the whackier Republican presidential contenders. Many of us born and raised in the middle of the USA have trouble with that. – T.E.D. Sep 19 '11 at 20:46

For reference: In the Bible's New Testament, Jesus is said to have come into this world for sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15) In addition, there are several stories in the Bible in which Jesus uses "broken" or suffering people to do big things, i.e. Peter and Mary.

That said, it seems Perry is loosely saying that he made personal mistakes but that doesn't mean he can't do great things. Overanalyzing the words of politicians is a slippery slope. (For the record: I think Dowd knows full well what Perry meant.)

share|improve this answer
If she truly doesn't, I think it reveals a lot more about her than it does Perry. – Chris B. Behrens Sep 19 '11 at 20:36

"W" is a reference to George W. Bush, distinguishing him from his father, George Herbert Walker Bush. His family is reported to have called him "W" as a child. Maureen Dowd uses it as an insult.

share|improve this answer
@Bob. Thanks a lot for your input. I understood W means Gorge W. Bush. Can you tell me then what “Gentleman’s” means, and why G is in capital? – Yoichi Oishi Sep 18 '11 at 11:29
@Yoichi: The term is "Gentleman's C," and it means a low passing grade for a "gentleman" who has other things to do. The capital G refers to an adjective that describes the grade. – Tom Au Sep 18 '11 at 13:49
I don't think the capitalization of G is necessary (in fact seems weird). – Mitch Sep 18 '11 at 14:42
@Yoichi Oishi - The implication in "Gentleman's C" is that he didn't nessecarily even earn that good of a grade either, but was given it based on his social standing. The capitalization reinforces that (in English you capitalize high-social class words like "President's" or "King's".) – T.E.D. Sep 19 '11 at 20:42

The line is from the Moses and David of Scripture, according to an online article in America Today, meaning that "He [God] does not require perfect people to execute his perfect plan", as quoted by Perry earlier in his speech. I believe the term broken people should be taken in that context, at least.

share|improve this answer

Perry's comment is that people in general are so imperfect that another "imperfect" person might understand them better than someone who "sailed through" with few blemishes.

At one job, one of the better supervisors I knew had taken about twice as long as normal to get to that level. He had made "every" mistake on the "way up," which is to say that he had more experience than others at fixing them.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.