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Poster Commentary
"Most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they were done."Louis Brandeis
Poster design:R.O. Blechman


by Erica Brown

Louis Brandeis (1856–1941) was an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court for more than 20 years—the first Jew to be appointed to that position. Committed to social justice, he was called the People’s Lawyer because he was a passionate advocate of workers’ rights and fought hard against corporate monopolies and corruption. Justice Brandeis also did ground-breaking work on privacy and helped create the Federal Reserve System.

An influential liberal arts college, Brandeis University, was named after him. Founded in 1948 in Waltham, Massachusetts, nine years after his death, Brandeis is a nonsectarian institution that, in its infancy, provided higher education to many Jews who, due to quotas on Jews, were locked out of Ivy League institutions.

Justice Brandeis questioned many conventional beliefs and practices in his work. When he wrote, “Most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible,” he was speaking from a place of intimate knowledge. Obstacles did not frighten him. He knew that only those who can see the invisible can do the impossible.

This may explain his remarkable commitment to Zionism later in his life, despite not being particularly religious. He never lived to see the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, but Justice Brandeis was deeply committed to a Jewish homeland to alleviate the scourge of anti-Semitism, which raged through Europe during his lifetime.


Conversation Guide


The commentary provides background about Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who fought for social justice and civil liberties. Justice Brandeis’s quotation is linked to both his legal work and his support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

What examples of “declared impossible” come to mind when you read this quotation?

What different types of “impossible” are there?

Have you been in a situation where your ideas or plans faced opposition? Did you prevail, and if so, how?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation. Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

In artist R.O. Blechman’s signature style, he depicts characters in an evocative narrative to interpret Brandeis’s words.

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted the quotation without the image?

What is happening between the characters? How are they dressed, and what might their attire represent?

What meaning can you attribute to the wheel? To the bubbles?

What emotions does this image arouse in you?


Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Masters Series©2012, R. O. Blechman, Quote: Louis Brandeis,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA