Today I am honoring one of our (admittedly few) great American politicians.
A hungry man is not a free man.
A wise man does not try to hurry
Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue
is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction.
All progress has resulted from people
who took unpopular positions.
An Independent is someone who wants to
take the politics out of politics.
Change is inevitable. Change for the
better is a full-time job.
Every age needs men who will redeem the
time by living with a vision of the things that are to be.
Flattery is all right so long as you
For my part I believe in the
forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.
Freedom is not an ideal — it is not even
a protection — if it means nothing more than freedom to stagnate, to
live without dreams, to have no greater aim than a second car and
another television set.
Freedom rings where opinions clash.
Golf is a fine relief from the tensions
of office, but we are a little tired of holding the bag.
He [Nixon] is the kind of politician
who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a
speech for conservation.
He who slings mud generally loses
I believe that if we really want human
brotherhood to spread and increase until it makes life safe and sane,
we must also be certain that there is no one true faith or path by
which it may spread.
I do not believe it is man’s destiny to
compress this once boundless earth into a small neighborhood, the
better to destroy it. Nor do I believe it is in the nature of man to
strike eternally at the image of himself, and therefore of God. I
profoundly believe that there is on this horizon, as yet only dimly
perceived, a new dawn of conscience. In that purer light, people will
come to see themselves in each other, which is to say they will make
themselves known to one another by their similarities rather than by
their differences. Man’s knowledge of things will begin to be matched
by man’s knowledge of self. The significance of a smaller world will
be measured not in terms of military advantage, but in terms of
advantage for the human community. It will be the triumph of the
heartbeat over the drumbeat.
These are my beliefs and I hold
them deeply, but they would be without any inner meaning for me
unless I felt that they were also the deep beliefs of human beings
everywhere. And the proof of this, to my mind, is the very existence
of the United Nations.
I don’t want to send them to jail. I
want to send them to school.
I have been thinking that I would make
a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop
telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth
I have tried to talk about the issues
in this campaign… and this has sometimes been a lonely road,
because I never meet anybody coming the other way.
I understand the plight of the
Negro–though I am not one myself–and if elected, will do everything
within my power to fully integrate our fine Colored folk into
everyday, national society. That is my personal pledge to you, the
American people, as well as the Negro. We have rights to wrong, and
we can not be deterred by a region of our great land who stubbornly
clings to outdated notions that the Negro is an inferior being.
I’m not an old, experienced hand at
politics. But I am now seasoned enough to have learned that the
hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without
proving that you are unworthy of winning.
If we value the pursuit of knowledge,
we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free
mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain.
Ignorance is stubborn and prejudice is
In America any boy may become
President, and I suppose it’s just one of the risks he takes.
It is an ancient political vehicle,
held together by soft soap and hunger and with front-seat drivers and
back-seat drivers contradicting each other in a bedlam of voices,
shouting “go right” and “go left” at the same
It was always accounted a virtue in
a man to love his country. With us it is now something more than a
virtue. It is a necessity. When an American says that he loves his
country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the
prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great
mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner
light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath
It will be helpful in our mutual
objective to allow every man in America to look his neighbor in the
face and see a man-not a color.
It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if
you think you look funny on a horse.
Law is not a profession at all, but
rather a business service station and repair shop.
Laws are never as effective as habits.
Let’s face it. Let’s talk sense to
the American people. Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no
gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions,
not easy decisions.
Making peace is harder than making war.
Man does not live by words alone,
despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.
Man is a strange animal. He generally
cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against
My definition of a free society is a
society where it is safe to be unpopular.
Nature is indifferent to the survival
of the human species, including Americans.
Nothing so dates a man as to decry the
On the plains of hesitation lie the
blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay
down to rest, and in resting died.
On this shrunken globe, men can no
longer live as strangers.
Patriotism is not short, frenzied
outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a
Peace is the one condition of survival
in this nuclear age.
Public confidence in the integrity of
the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we
lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight
and spend for.
Respect for intellectual excellence,
the restoration of vigor and discipline to our ideas of study,
curricula which aim at strengthening intellectual fiber and
stretching the power of young minds, personal commitment and
responsibility — these are the preconditions of educational
recovery in America today; and, I believe, they have always been the
preconditions of happiness and sanity for the human race.
Saskatchewan is much like Texas —
except it’s more friendly to the United States
Some of us worship in churches, some in
synagogues, some on golf courses.
Some people approach every problem with
an open mouth.
That which seems the height of
absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in
[During his 1956 presidential campaign,
a woman called out to him, “You have the vote of every thinking
person!” Stevenson called back:] “That’s not enough, madam,
we need a majority!”
The art of government has grown from
its seeds in the tiny city-states of Greece to become the political
mode of half the world. So let us dream of a world in which all
states, great and small, work together for the peaceful flowering of
the republic of man.
The definition of a free society is a
society where it is safe to be unpopular.
The early years of the United Nations
have been difficult ones, but what did we expect? That peace would
drift down from the skies like soft snow? That there would be no
ordeal, no anguish, no testing, in this greatest of all human
Any great institution or idea
must suffer its pains of birth and growth. We will not lose faith in
the United Nations. We see it as a living thing and we will work and
pray for its full growth and development. We want it to become what
it was intended to be — a world society of nations under law, not
merely law backed by force, but law backed by justice and popular
The elephant has a thick skin, a head
full of ivory, and as everyone who has seen a circus parade knows,
proceeds best by grasping the tail of its predecessor. [Comment on
the Republican symbol.]
The first principle of a free society
is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.
The hardest thing about any political
campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of
The human race has improved everything,
but the human race.
The idea that you can merchandise
candidates for high office like breakfast cereal — that you can
gather votes like box tops — is, I think, the ultimate indignity to
the democratic process.
The journey of a thousand leagues
begins with a single step. So we must never neglect any work of peace
within our reach, however small.
The New Dealers have all left
Washington to make way for the car dealers.
The relationship of the toastmaster to
speaker should be the same as that of the fan to the fan dancer. It
should call attention to the subject without making any particular
effort to cover it.
The Republican party makes even its
young men seem old; the Democratic Party makes even its old men seem
The Republicans have a “me too”
candidate running on a “yes but” platform, advised by a
“has been” staff.
The Republicans stroke platitudes until
they purr like epigrams.
The sound of tireless voices is the
price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions. But
there is also, it seems to me, a moment at which democracy must prove
its capacity to act. Every man has a right to be heard; but no man
has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal
The time to stop a revolution is at the
beginning, not the end.
The whole notion of loyalty
inquisitions is a national characteristic of the police state, not of
democracy. The history of Soviet Russia is a modern example of this
ancient practice. I must, in good conscience, protest against any
unnecessary suppression of our rights as free men. We must not burn
down the house to kill the rats.
There are worse things than losing an
election; the worst thing is to lose one’s convictions and not tell
the people the truth.
There was a time when a fool and his
money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody.
This the first time I ever heard it
said that the crime is not the burglary, but the discovery of the
Those who corrupt the public mind are
just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.
To act coolly, intelligently and
prudently in perilous circumstances is the test of a man — and also
Understanding human needs is half the
job of meeting them.
Unreason and anti-intellectualism
abominate thought. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and
reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom.
We can chart our future clearly and
wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.
We have confused the free with the free
We hear the Secretary of State boasting
of his brinkmanship — the art of bringing us to the edge of the
We live in an era of revolution — the
revolution of rising expectations.
We must recover the element of quality
in our traditional pursuit of equality. We must not, in opening our
schools to everyone, confuse the idea that all should have equal
chance with the notion that all have equal endowments.
We should be careful and discriminating
in all the advice we give. We should be especially careful in giving
advice that we would not think of following ourselves. Most of all,
we ought to avoid giving counsel which we don’t follow when it
damages those who take us at our word.
We talk a great deal about patriotism.
What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture
to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility
which will enable America to remain master of her power — to walk
with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of
all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a
patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the
tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a
lifetime — these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a
mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles
than to live up to them.
We travel together, passengers on a
little spaceship, dependent on it’s vulnerable reserves of air and
soil, all committed, for our safety, to it’s security and peace.
Preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love
we give our fragile craft.
What a man knows at fifty that he did
not know at twenty is for the most part incommunicable.
With the supermarket as our temple and
the singing commercial as our litany, are we likely to fire the world
with an irresistible vision of America’s exalted purpose and
inspiring way of life?
[When asked on a television show if he
had any advice to give to young politicians:] “Yes, never run
against a war hero.”
You are in the courtroom of world
opinion. You have denied they exist, and I want to know if I
understood you correctly. I am prepared to wait for my answer until
hell freezes over. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in
You can tell the size of a man by the
size of the thing that makes him mad.
You know, you really can’t beat a
household commodity – the ketchup bottle on the kitchen table.
You will find that the truth is often
unpopular and the contest between agreeable fancy and disagreeable
fact is unequal. For, in the vernacular, we Americans are suckers for
Your days are short here; this is the
last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this
lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You
will go away with old, good friends. And don’t forget when you leave
why you came.
– Adlai E. Stevenson (1900-1965)