Harrell Beck

The Wisdom of Harrell Beck

Rubinstein and Coffin


Some of you remember that William Sloane Coffin’s first wife was the daughter of Arthur Rubinstein, the great pianist. Some of you remember that when Coffin fell in love with Miss Rubinstein -- who was not a Protestant -- he had to go to her house and ask for her hand from the great performer. Coffin and the maestro sat in the drawing room of the Rubinstein’s on the East River. Dr. Rubinstein said to Bill Coffin, “What do you do for a living?” And Coffin said (a little apologetically), “I’m a Protestant preacher.” Rubinstein got up, looked out the window to the East River and thought for a moment. He then said, “Mister Coffin, when I think of a Protestant preacher, I think of Billy Graham.” If you know William Coffin, then you know that that wasn’t the nicest thing to hear. But Coffin, who is seldom done in, thought for a moment and said, “Mr. Rubinstein, when I think of a great pianist, I think of Liberace.” From “Images of Hope, The Nails” March 8, 1985

Themes: differences, diversity, assumptions, interpretation, respect