Adlai Stevenson

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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...

Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (5 February 190014 July 1965) was an American politician and statesman, noted for his skill in debate and oratory; Governor of Illinois, he was twice an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States running against Dwight D. Eisenhower (in 1952 and 1956). Under the John F. Kennedy administration, he served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Quotes[edit]

In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.
Laws are never as effective as habits.
  • The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.
    For these reasons, and not because I love birds the less or cats the more, I veto and withhold my approval from Senate Bill No. 93.
    • Vetoing a Bill that would have imposed fines on owners who allowed cats to run at large. (23 April 1949).
  • 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.
  • Communism is the corruption of a dream of justice.
    • Speech in Urbana, Illinois (1951); as quoted in Adlai's Almanac: The Wit and Wisdom of Stevenson of Illinois (1952), p. 20.
  • Words calculated to catch everyone may catch no one.
    • Address to the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois. (21 July 1952); published in Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952).
  • What counts now is not just what we are against, but what we are for. Who leads us is less important than what leads us — what convictions, what courage, what faith — win or lose. A man doesn't save a century, or a civilization, but a militant party wedded to a principle can.
    • Address to the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois. (21 July 1952); published in Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952) p. 17.
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...
  • 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, like resistance when you're attacked, but a long, patient, costly struggle which alone can assure triumph over the great enemies of man — war, poverty, and tyranny — and the assaults upon human dignity which are the most grievous consequences of each.
    • Acceptance speech, Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois (26 July 1952).
  • 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.
    • Speech to the American Legion convention, New York City (27 August 1952); as quoted in "Democratic Candidate Adlai Stevenson Defines the Nature of Patriotism" in Lend Me Your Ears : Great Speeches In History (2004) by William Safire, p. 79 - 80.
  • True Patriotism, it seems to me, is based on tolerance and a large measure of humility.
    • Speech to the American Legion convention, New York City (27 August 1952); as quoted in "Democratic Candidate Adlai Stevenson Defines the Nature of Patriotism" in Lend Me Your Ears : Great Speeches In History (2004) by William Safire, p. 80.
  • The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live, and fear breeds repression. Too often sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, are concealed under the patriotic cloak, of anti-communism.
    • Speech to the American Legion convention, New York City (27 August 1952); as quoted in "Democratic Candidate Adlai Stevenson Defines the Nature of Patriotism" in Lend Me Your Ears : Great Speeches In History (2004) by William Safire, p. 81.
The really basic thing in government is policy. Bad administration, to be sure, can destroy good policy, but good administration can never save bad policy.
  • 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 of self-respect.
    Men who have offered their lives for their country know that patriotism is not the fear of something; it is the love of something.
    • Speech to the American Legion convention, New York City (27 August 1952); as quoted in "Democratic Candidate Adlai Stevenson Defines the Nature of Patriotism" in Lend Me Your Ears : Great Speeches In History (2004) by William Safire, p. 81 - 82.
  • 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 chords.
    • Speech in New York City (28 August 1952).
  • Laws are never as effective as habits.
    • Speech in New York City (28 August 1952).
What counts now is not just what we are against, but what we are for. Who leads us is less important than what leads us — what convictions, what courage, what faith — win or lose.
  • Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.
    • Speech in Denver, Colorado (5 September 1952).
  • A hungry man is not a free man.
    • Speech in Kasson, Minnesota (6 September 1952).
  • The time to stop a revolution is at the beginning, not the end.
    • Speech, San Francisco, California (9 September 1952).
  • 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 about them.
    • Campaign statement in Fresno, California (10 September 1952); earlier incidence of similar comments exist:
    • If Mr. Hughes will stop lying about me, I will stop telling the truth about him.
    • If you will refrain from telling any lies about the Republican Party, I'lll promise not to tell the truth about the Democrats.
      • Chauncey Depew, as quoted in "If Elected I Promise ... "Stories and Gems of Wisdom by and About Politicians (1969) by John F. Parker.
We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.
  • 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.
    • Speech to the Los Angeles Town Club, Los Angeles, California (11 September 1952); Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952), p. 31.
  • In the tragic days of Mussolini, the trains in Italy ran on time as never before and I am told in their way, their horrible way, that the Nazi concentration-camp system in Germany was a model of horrible efficiency. The really basic thing in government is policy. Bad administration, to be sure, can destroy good policy, but good administration can never save bad policy.
    • Speech to the Los Angeles Town Club, Los Angeles, California (11 September 1952); Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952), p. 36.
  • There is no evil in the atom, only in men's souls.
    • Speech in Hartford, Connecticut (18 September 1952).
  • We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.
    • Speech, Richmond, Virginia (20 September 1952).
  • To remember the loneliness, the fear and the insecurity of men who once had to walk alone in huge factories, beside huge machines—to realize that labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen—human companionship on the job, and music in the home—to be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father—to know these things is to understand what American labor means.
    • Speech (22 September 1952), reported in Report of Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Federation of Labor, Vol. 71 (1952).
  • In America any boy may become President, and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes.
    • Speech in Indianapolis, Indiana (26 September 1952).
Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them.
  • As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end. Democracy is a high privilege, but it is also a heavy responsibility whose shadow stalks, although you may never walk in the sun.
    • Speech in Chicago, Illinois (29 September 1952).
  • Nature is indifferent to the survival of the human species, including Americans.
    • Radio address (29 September 1952).
  • Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them.
    • Speech in Columbus, Ohio (3 October 1952); quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations (1970) edited by Rhoda Thomas Tripp, p. 429.
  • The Republicans have a "me too" candidate running on a "yes but" platform, advised by a "has been" staff.
    • Speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa (5 October 1952), as quoted in The Wit and Wisdom of Adlai Stevenson (1965) compiled by by Edward Hanna and Henry H. Hicks, p. 33.
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 undertakings?
  • My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
    • Speech in Detroit, Michigan (7 October 1952).
  • Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.
    • Speech at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (8 October 1952).
  • 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.
    • Speech at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (8 October 1952).
Any great institution or idea must suffer its pains of birth and growth.
  • 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.
    • Speech in Springfield Illinois (24 October 1952).
  • 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 undertakings?
    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 consent.
    • Speech in Springfield Illinois (24 October 1952).
I believe in the infinite wisdom that envelops and embraces me and from which I take direction, purpose, strength.
  • I have said what I meant and meant what I said. I have not done as well as I should like to have done, but I have done my best, frankly and forthrightly; no man can do more, and you are entitled to no less.
  • 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 time.
    • On the Republican Party, as quoted in news summaries (15 November 1952) and Speeches of Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1952), p. 110.
A wise man does not try to hurry history.
  • A funny thing happened to me on the way to the White House...
    • Speech in Washington D.C. (13 December 1952).
  • What do I believe? As an American I believe in generosity, in liberty, in the rights of man. These are social and political faiths that are part of me, as they are, I suppose, part of all of us. Such beliefs are easy to express. But part of me too is my relation to all life, my religion. And this is not so easy to talk about. Religious experience is highly intimate and, for me, ready words are not at hand. I am profoundly aware of the magnitude of the universe, that all is ruled by law, including my finite person. I believe in the infinite wisdom that envelops and embraces me and from which I take direction, purpose, strength.
  • A wise man does not try to hurry history. Many wars have been avoided by patience and many have been precipitated by reckless haste.
    • Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952), p. 39.
  • Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.
    • Speeches of Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1952), p. 99.
  • I have tried to talk about the issues in this campaign... But, strangely enough, my friends, this road has been a lonely road because I never meet anybody coming the other way.
    • Speeches of Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1952), p. 121.
We live in an era of revolution — the revolution of rising expectations.
  • Well, speaking as a Christian, I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.
    • Opening sentence of remarks to a Baptist convention in Texas during 1952 Presidential campaign. In his introduction the host had said that Stevenson had been asked to speak "just as a courtesy, because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has already instructed us to vote for your opponent." From Humor in the White House: The Wit of Five American Presidents (2001) by Arthur A. Sloane .
  • The Republican party makes even its young men seem old; the Democratic Party makes even its old men seem young.
    • Comparing Richard Nixon to Alben Barkley during the 1952 presidential race, as quoted in Richard Nixon: A Political and Personal Portrait (1959) by Earl Mazo, Chapter 7.
  • Many of the world’s troubles are not due just to Russia or communism. They would be with us in any event because we live in an era of revolution—the revolution of rising expectations. In Asia, the masses now count for something. Tomorrow, they will count for more. And, for better or for worse, the future belongs to those who understand the hopes and fears of masses in ferment. The new nations want independence, including the inalienable able right to make their own mistakes. The people want respect—and something to eat every day. And they want something better for their children.
    • Look, p. 46 (22 September 1953).
  • He who slings mud generally loses ground.
    • Statement quoted in news summaries (11 January 1954); as quoted in Best Quotes of '54, '55, '56 (1957) edited by James Beasley Simpson, p. 58.
All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. All change is the result of a change in the contemporary state of mind.
It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that count in the long run.
  • What a man knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty is, for the most part, incommunicable. The laws, the aphorisms, the generalizations, the universal truths, the parables and the old saws — all of the observations about life which can be communicated handily in ready, verbal packages — are as well known to a man at twenty who has been attentive as to a man at fifty. He has been told them all, he has read them all, and he has probably repeated them all before he graduates from college; but he has not lived them all.
    What he knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty boils down to something like this: The knowledge he has acquired with age is not the knowledge of formulas, or forms of words, but of people, places, actions — a knowledge not gained by words but by touch, sight, sound, victories, failures, sleeplessness, devotion, love — the human experiences and emotions of this earth and of oneself and other men; and perhaps, too, a little faith, and a little reverence for things you cannot see.
  • All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. All change is the result of a change in the contemporary state of mind. Don't be afraid of being out of tune with your environment, and above all pray God that you are not afraid to live, to live hard and fast. To my way of thinking it is not the years in your life but the life in your years that count in the long run. You'll have more fun, you'll do more and you'll get more, you'll give more satisfaction the more you know, the more you have worked, and the more you have lived. For yours is a great adventure at a stirring time in the annals of men.
    • Address at Princeton University, "The Educated Citizen" (22 March 1954).
    • Variant: It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.
      • "If I Were Twenty-One" in Coronet (December 1955).
    • This has also been paraphrased "What matters most is not the years in your life, but the life in your years" and misattributed to Abraham Lincoln and Mae West.
  • Unreason and anti-intellectualism abominate thought. Thinking implies disagreement; and disagreement implies nonconformity; and nonconformity implies heresy; and heresy implies disloyalty — so, obviously, thinking must be stopped. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom.
    • A Call to Greatness (1954), p. 99.
In matters of national security emotion is no substitute for intelligence, nor rigidity for prudence. To act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the test of a man — and also a nation.
  • In matters of national security emotion is no substitute for intelligence, nor rigidity for prudence. To act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the test of a man — and also a nation.
    • Radio address (11 April 1955); as quoted in The World's Great Speeches (1999) edited by Lewis Copeland, Lawrence W. Lamm, and Stephen J. McKenna.
  • We mean by "politics" the people's business — the most important business there is.
    • Speech in Chicago, Illinois (19 November 1955).
  • Some of us worship in churches, some in synagogues, some on golf courses ... yet we are all children of the same Judaic-Christian civilization, with much the same religious background basically.
    • As quoted in The Political Thought of Adlai E. Stevenson (1955) by William Robert Latimer, p. 89.
  • We hear the Secretary of State boasting of his brinkmanship — the art of bringing us to the edge of the abyss.
    • Speech in Hartford, Connecticut (25 February 1956); Referring to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.
  • 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.
    • Speech at the Democratic National Convention (18 August 1956).
Though change is inevitable, change for the better is a full-time job.
  • There is a new America every morning when we wake up. It is upon us whether we will it or not. The new America is the sum of many small changes — a new subdivision here, a new school there, a new industry where there had been swampland — changes that add up to a broad transformation of our lives. Our task is to guide these changes. For, though change is inevitable, change for the better is a full-time job.
    • Presidential campaign address, Miami, Florida, (September 1956), as quoted in Best Quotes of '54, '55, '56 (1957) edited by James Beasley Simpson.
  • Our nation stands at a fork in the political road. In one direction lies a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call and hustling, pushing, shoving; the land of smash and grab and anything to win. This is Nixonland. But I say to you that it is not America.
    • Speech in Los Angeles California (27 October 1956), as quoted in The New America (1971), edited by Seymour E. Harris, John B. Martin, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., p. 249.
Every age needs men who will redeem the time by living with a vision of the things that are to be.
  • 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.
    • Statement of 1956, as quoted in Adlai Stevenson : A Study in Values (1967) by Herbert Joseph Muller, p. 174.
  • I have learned that In quiet places, reason abounds, that in quiet people there is vision and purpose, that many things are revealed to the humble that are hidden from the great.
    • As quoted in My Brother Adlai (1956) by Elizabeth Stevenson Ives and Hildegarde Dolson.
  • Fill the moral vacuum, the rational vacuum, we must; reconvert a population soaked in the spirit of materialism to the spirit of humanism we must, or bit by bit we too will take on the visage of our enemy, the neo-heathens.
    • What I Think (1956), p. 54.
  • Men may be born free; they cannot be born wise; and it is the duty of the university to make the free wise.
    • What I Think (1956), p. 55.
  • Every age needs men who will redeem the time by living with a vision of the things that are to be.
    • What I Think (1956), p. 142.
  • We live in a time when automation is ushering in a second industrial revolution, and the powers of the atom are about to be harnessed for ever greater production. We live at a time when even the ancient spectre of hunger is vanishing. This is the age of abundance! Never in history has there been such an opportunity to show what we can do to improve the quality of living now that the old, terrible, grinding anxieties of daily bread, of shelter and raiment are disappearing.
    • Statement at the Democratic National Convention, as quoted in Best Quotes of '54, '55, '56 (1957) edited by James Beasley Simpson, p. 58; later published in The New America (1957), p. 7.
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.
  • 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.
    • Speech to the United Parents Association, as quoted in The New York Times (6 April 1958).
  • 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.
    • Speech to the United Parents Association, as quoted in The New York Times (6 April 1958).
  • 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 good news.
    • Commencement address at Michigan State University The New York Times (9 June 1958).
  • 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.
    • "Putting First Things First", Foreign Affairs (January 1960).
She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world.
  • 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?
    • The Wall Street Journal (1 June 1960).
  • 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 1960 Richard Nixon presidential campaign and the Republican symbol, in news summaries (30 August 1960), as quoted in The New Language of Politics: An Anecdotal Dictionary of Catchwords, Slogans and Political Usage (1968) by William Safire.
  • We have confused the free with the free and easy.
    • Putting First Things (1960).
  • The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.
    • As quoted in The New York Times (19 January 1962).
  • She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world.
    • Remark upon learning of the death of Eleanor Roosevelt, drawing upon the motto of the Christopher Society: "It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness." ; quoted in The New York Times (8 November 1962).
  • You are in the courtroom of world opinion…. All right, sir, let me ask you one simple question: Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no — don't wait for the translation — yes or no?" [The Soviet representative refuses to answer.] "You can answer yes or no. You have denied they exist. I want to know if I understood you correctly. I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room.
    • To Soviet U.N. Ambassador Valerian A. Zorin in the United Nations Security Council during the Cuban missile crisis (25 October 1962).
  • Happily for us, students have not tried to overthrow the Government of the United States, but they certainly are making their views felt in public affairs. I think especially of the participation of American students in the great struggle to advance civil and human rights in America. Indeed, even a jail sentence is no longer a dishonor but a proud achievement.
    • Commencement address at Colby College, Waterville, Maine (June 7, 1964), reported in The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson (1979), vol. 8, p. 567.
  • 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.
    • Foreword to booklet on interracial relations prepared by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, as quoted in The New York Times (22 June 1964).
After four years at the United Nations I sometimes yearn for the peace and tranquillity of a political convention.
  • For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.
    • Response to a heckler asking him to state his beliefs, as quoted in TIME magazine (1 November 1963).
  • After four years at the United Nations I sometimes yearn for the peace and tranquillity of a political convention.
    • As quoted in The New York Times (14 August 1964).
  • A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth.
    • Quoted in The Fine Art of Political Wit by Leon Harris (1964).
  • Nixon is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump for a speech on conservation.
    • Quoted in The Fine Art of Political Wit by Leon Harris (1964).
  • The Republicans stroke platitudes until they purr like epigrams.
    • Quoted in The Fine Art of Political Wit by Leon Harris (1964); this statement is derived from one by humorist Don Marquis.
We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed, for our safety, to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love we give our fragile craft.
  • An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.
    • Quoted in The Fine Art of Political Wit by Leon Harris (1964); This statement has also been attributed to Elbert Hubbard.
  • A diplomat's life is made up of three ingredients: protocol, Geritol and alcohol.
    • As quoted in The New York Times Magazine (7 February 1965).
Our prayer is that men everywhere will learn, finally, to live as brothers, to respect each other's differences, to heal each other's wounds, to promote each other's progress, and to benefit from each other's knowledge.
  • We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed, for our safety, to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half fortunate, half miserable, half confident, half despairing, half slave — to the ancient enemies of man — half free in a liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all.
    • Speech to the UN Economic and Social Council, Geneva, Switzerland (9 July 1965).
  • On this shrunken globe men can no longer live as strangers. Men can war against each other as hostile neighbors, as we are determined not to do; or they can co-exist in frigid isolation, as we are doing. But our prayer is that men everywhere will learn, finally, to live as brothers, to respect each other's differences, to heal each other's wounds, to promote each other's progress, and to benefit from each other's knowledge.
    • As quoted in Man of Honor, Man of Peace : The Life and Words of Adlai Stevenson (1965) by Robert L. Polley, p. 61.
  • Because we believe in the free mind we are also fighting those who, in the name of anti-Communism, would assail the community of freedom itself.
    • As quoted in Portrait — Adlai E. Stevenson : Politician, Diplomat, Friend (1965) by Alden Whitman.
  • You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing that makes him mad.
    • Address to the State Committee of the Liberal Party in New York City, Faith in Liberalism (pdf) (28 August 1952).
  • A beauty is a woman you notice; a charmer is one who notices you.
    • As quoted in The Stevenson Wit (1965) edited by Bill Adler.
  • There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody.
    • As quoted in The Stevenson Wit (1965) edited by Bill Adler.
  • There are worse things than losing an election; the worst thing is to lose one's convictions and not tell the people the truth.
    • Responding to an assertion that his support for a ban on nuclear testing would probably cost him votes, as quoted in As We Knew Adlai : The Stevenson Story by Twenty-two Friends (1966) by Edward P. Doyle, p. 185.
  • The best reason I can think of for not running for President of the United States is that you have to shave twice a day.
    • As quoted in Bartlett's Unfamiliar Quotations (1971) by Leonard Louis Levinson, p. 237.
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.
  • I am a lawyer. I think that one of the most fundamental responsibilities, not only of every citizen, but particularly of lawyers, is to give testimony in a court of law, to give it honestly and willingly, and it will be a very unhappy day for Anglo-Saxon justice when a man, even a man in public life, is too timid to state what he knows and what he has heard about a defendant in a criminal trial for fear that defendant might be convicted. That would to me be the ultimate timidity.
  • 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.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 508; this begins with a phrase derived from one in the Tao Te Ching, by Laozi.
  • Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction.
    • As quoted in Morrow's International Dictionary of Contemporary Quotations (1982) by Jonathon Green.
  • Peace is the one condition of survival in this nuclear age.
    • As quoted in Seeds of Peace : A Catalogue of Quotations (1986) by Jeanne Larson and Madge Micheels, p. 203.
  • 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.
    • As quoted in Seeds of Peace : A Catalogue of Quotations (1986) by Jeanne Larson and Madge Micheels, p. 265.
It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.
  • I can't say that I love it with a fierce passion — indeed as a profession it's rather disappointing since it is not a profession at all, but rather a business service station and repair shop.
    • On being a lawyer, as quoted by Claire Birge in The Stevensons : A Biography of an American Family (1997) by Jean H. Baker, p. 262.
  • Some people approach every problem with an open mouth.
    • As quoted in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998) by Connie Robertson.
    • Similar statements by others:
    • Mr. Hogg observed facetiously that interpreters were rather like politicians: they are people who approach every problem with an open mouth.
      • Quintin Hogg, as quoted in Annual Review of United Nations Affairs (1949) by Clyde Eagleton, p. 136.
    • Modern diplomats approach every problem with an open mouth.
      • Arthur J. Goldberg, as quoted in Affronts, Insults and Indignities (1975) by Morris Mandel.
Never run against a war hero.
  • An Independent is someone who wants to take the politics out of politics.
    • As quoted in The Quotable Politician (2003) by William B. Whitman, p. 36.
  • It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.
    • As quoted in Born to Run : Origins of the Political Career (2003) by Ronald Keith Gaddie, p. 119.
  • Communism is the death of the soul. It is the organization of total conformity — in short, of tyranny — and it is committed to making tyranny universal.
    • Quoted in "Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson" (1952), Random House. Republished in the New York Times, "Books of the Times", by Charles Poore, April 20, 1953, p. 23.
  • Ignorance is stubborn and prejudice dies hard.
    • According to "The Home Book of American Quotations" (1967), by Bruce Bohle, Stevenson said this in an address to the United Nations on October 1, 1963.
  • I have sometimes said that flattery is all right, Mr. President, if you don't inhale it.
    • Opening sentence of Stevenson's first appearance at the UN as UN Ambassador, February 1, 1961. From "Looking Outward", by Adlai Stevenson, p. 3.
  • Some war hero is always getting in my way.
    • Attributed to Stevenson by Harry Ashmore of the Arkansas Gazette and entered by William Fulbright in the Congressional Record for July 22, 1965. According to Ashmore, Stevenson said this when he was blocked by a motorcade for Charles de Gaulle.
  • Gentlemen, there is business before your house and I propose to get right to it, obeying, as far as I can, what seems to me becoming to be known as the Republican law of gravity.
    • Address to the AFL Convention in New York City, transcribed in the New York Times, September 23, 1952. In context, Stevenson was saying that the Republicans were humorless, in contrast to his own sense of humor. This quote resembles the unsourced and confusing version, "I refuse to personally criticize President Eisenhower, I will not submit to the Republican concept of gravity."
  • The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party in the country—the party dedicated to conserving all that is best and building solidly and safely on these foundations. The Republicans, by contrast, are behaving like the radical party—the party of the reckless and embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric.
    • Quoted in Peter Viereck, "The New Conservatism: One of Its Founders Asks What Went Wrong." New Republic September 24, 1962.
  • I think that one of our most important tasks is to convince others that there's nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics without which life would become meaningless. Here lies the power of the liberal way: not in making the whole world Unitarian, but in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one's own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination.
    • As quoted in Challenge of a Liberal Faith (1988), by George N. Marshall, Ch. 3 : A Contemporary Religion, p. 34


Disputed[edit]

  • Freedom rings where opinions clash.
    • Variations of this quote are often attributed to Stevenson without a date or location for the remark. Two early occurrences are in a Congressional hearing on November 13, 1985, where Stevenson was quoted by Representative Ted Weiss ("Limits on the Dissemination of Information by the Department of Education" (1986), published by the GPO); and an article dated June 4, 1989 by Sue Ann Wood in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ("Write Editor, Readers Urged"). No source closer to Stevenson has been found.
  • That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!
    • Supposed response to a woman who called out to him: "Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!" during one of his presidential campaigns. This quote has appeared with several variations in dozens of books and newspaper articles at least since the 1970s. One of the earlier references is in a book review article by Robert Sherrill in the New York Times, "Titles in the Running for 1972", February 13, 1972. No source closer to Stevenson has been found, in particular none that names a witness nor the date or location of the remark.
  • Saskatchewan is much like Texas — except it's more friendly to the United States.
    • This was attributed to Stevenson without reference in 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About Texas (2006) by Donna Ingham, p. 92. It was also attributed without reference in "Reporters' Notebook", The Buffalo News, September 24, 1992. No closer connection to Stevenson has been found.


Misattributed[edit]

  • The human race has improved everything but the human race.
    • In "Wages are Going Lower!" (1951), William Joseph Baxter wrote, "One might almost say that the human race seems to have improved everything except people." Variations of this quote have appeared since both with and without attribution to Adlai Stevenson, but no documented connection to Stevenson is known.
  • That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.
    • John Stuart Mill, as quoted by Stevenson in Call to Greatness (1954), p. 102; this has also been misquoted as "That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another."
  • Man is a strange animal. He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.
    • The 1957 Ford Almanac has the quote "It's too late to read the handwriting on the wall when your back's up against it", attributed to "Anon." The quote appeared in several variations afterwards, for instance in an essay by Meredith Thring in Nature Magazine in 1965. It began to be attributed without context to Stevenson in the 1970s. According to "Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy" by Porter McKeever (p. 566), Stevenson made this remark "with increasing frequency in the final months of his life"; but Stevenson died in 1965 and this book does not give a precise reference. Absent better attestation, Stevenson either used the quote from elsewhere or the association with Stevenson is a mistake.

Quotes about Stevenson[edit]

Via ovum cranium difficilis est.
  • Though Americans talk a good deal about the virtue of being serious, they generally prefer people who are solemn over people who are serious. In politics, the rare candidate who is serious, like Adlai Stevenson, is easily overwhelmed by one who is solemn, like General Eisenhower. This is probably because it is hard for most people to recognize seriousness, which is rare, especially in politics, but comfortable to endorse solemnity, which is as commonplace as jogging.
    • Russell Baker in "Why Being Serious Is Hard" in So This Is Depravity (1980).
  • He had that quality for which the Africans, who know how to appreciate it, have found a special term. "Nommo" is the Bantu word for the gift of making life rather larger and more vivid for everyone else.
    • Barbara Ward, British economist, quoted in As We Knew Adlai : The Stevenson Story by Twenty-two Friends (1966) by Edward P. Doyle, p. 212.
  • He was one of the most admired men of his time — and one of the most perplexing, a paradox within himself. Twice he sought his nation's highest office; yet he always thought of the presidency as a "dread responsibility." He was a politician without a politician's ways; instead of grinning gamely when, during one of his campaigns, a little girl handed him a stuffed baby alligator, Stevenson could only gape and exclaim, "For Christ's sake, what's this?" He was a man of rare humor, often expressed in self-deprecating terms. Responding to criticism that he was too intellectual, that he talked over the heads of the voters, he tossed out a Latinism: Via ovum cranium difficilis est (The way of the egghead is hard).

External links[edit]

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