Hubert Humphrey

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I wish to suggest that ample opportunity does exist for dissent, for protest, and for nonconformity. But I must also say that the right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.

Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr. (May 27, 1911January 13, 1978) was an American politician who served as the 38th vice president of the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson, from 1965 to 1969. Humphrey twice served in the United States Senate, representing Minnesota from 1949 to 1964 and 1971 to 1978. He was the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 1968 presidential election, losing to the Republican nominee, Richard M. Nixon.


  • Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.
    • Quoted in Guns magazine "Know Your Lawmaker" column, p. 4. (Feb. 1960)
  • We can't use a double standard — there’s no room for double standards in American politics — for measuring our own and other people's policies. Our demands for democratic practices in other lands will be no more effective than the guarantee of those practices in our own country.
  • To those who say — My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say — To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.
  • For all of us here, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole two billion members of the human family, our land is now, more than ever before, the last best hope on earth. And I know that we can, and I know that we shall began [sic] here the fuller and richer realization of that hope — that promise of a land where all men are truly free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely well.
  • I wish to suggest that ample opportunity does exist for dissent, for protest, and for nonconformity. But I must also say that the right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.
    • Address to the National Student Council (1965)
  • In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.
    • Speech, March 26, 1966, Washington, D.C., quoted in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993)
  • The vast number of titles which are published each year—all of them are to the good, even if some of them may annoy or even repel us for a time. For none of us would trade freedom of expression and of ideas for the narrowness of the public censor. America is a free market for people who have something to say, and need not fear to say it.
    • Address to the National Book Awards ceremony in New York City (March 8, 1967), reported in The New York Times (March 9, 1967), p. 42.
  • I had no money to buy books, so between classes and work, I haunted the library. I even tutored in French with a sliding scale of payment: twenty dollars for an A, fifteen for a B, ten for a C, five for a D.
    • Of his university years. From Hubert H. Humphrey, The Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics 43 (1976)
  • The story of the labor movement needs to be taught in every school in this land... America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions can do to make a better life … we ought to be proud of it!
    • Address to the 1977 Minnesota State AFL-CIO Convention.
  • The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
    • Remarks at the dedication of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, November 1, 1977, Congressional Record, November 4, 1977, vol 123, p. 37287.
  • The Senate is a place filled with goodwill and good intentions, and if the road to hell is paved with them, then it's a pretty good detour.
    • Reported in Newsweek (January 23, 1978), p. 23.

Quotes about Humphrey

I love everything he stands for;
I just wish he didn't love it so much. He needs a director to tell him when he's made his point. I think he'd have been a good President.

Edward G. Robinson
  • Humphrey, in terms of his political life, had always taken very strong and firm positions on the issues that affected poor people and people from the middle class.
  • Few politicians who fail to win the presidency are subsequently judged to be giants in our history. Among the select few are Robert F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and Hubert H. Humphrey in the 20th century; Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun in the 19th century; and William Jennings Bryan, who straddled the two. There would certainly be lively debate about other political figures who deserve inclusion on such a list, and many non-politicians have earned places in our national story far more exalted than those of middling presidents and elected officials. As John McCain's contemporaries, we may be ill-positioned to insist with certainty that he will join the likes of Kennedy, Bryan and Clay as figures who were profoundly consequential though the White House eluded them.
  • On Sunday the convention began and Hubert Humphrey arrived in town. Humphrey had a progressive record on social issues, but he was associated with Johnson’s Vietnam policy and refused to break away from it. Even without the Vietnam issue, Humphrey, at fifty-seven, would have been a victim of the generation gap. He seemed almost cartoonish with his vibratoed, tinny voice, his corny midwestern wholesomeness, and his halfhearted good cheer; with the way he could in all seriousness use expressions like “Good grief”; and with his perpetual smile that looked as if he had just bitten something. This is how his biographer, Carl Solberg, described the politician nicknamed the Happy Warrior as he left for the Chicago convention: "On the elevator to the street he kissed his wife, danced a little two step, and punched his friend Dr. Berman on the arm. 'Off we go into battle—and I can hardly wait,' he said." This was not a candidate whom McCarthy and Robert Kennedy supporters could turn to, not a personality to calm the young demonstrators who had come to Chicago. The Happy Warrior frowned, and not for the last time, when his plane landed in Chicago. Daley had sent a bagpipe band to meet him. There is no lonelier sound than bagpipes without a crowd. Few supporters were there to greet him, and even more upsetting, the mayor himself wasn’t there. McCarthy had been met by an energized crowd. “Five thousand supporters,” according to Humphrey, who was muttering about the contrast. An even bigger disappointment was that Daley was holding off on endorsing Humphrey. Daley found it hard to believe that Humphrey was a man who would attract all the voters who had gone for Robert Kennedy in California. Daley and a few other party bosses were last-minute shopping for another candidate, especially the last brother, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Humphrey was as terrified of taking on a Kennedy as was Nixon.
  • Humphrey was hardly the first presidential candidate to win the nomination without competing in primaries. He would, however, be the last. The events that unfolded in Chicago—displayed on television screens across America—mortally wounded the party-insider presidential selection system. Even before the convention began, the crushing blow of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, the escalating conflict over Vietnam, and the energy of the antiwar protesters in Chicago’s Grant Park sapped any remaining public faith in the old system. On August 28, the protesters turned to march on the convention: Blue-helmeted police attacked protesters and bystanders, and bloodied men, women, and children sought refuge in nearby hotels. The so-called Battle of Michigan Avenue then spilled over into the convention hall itself. Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, in his nomination speech for antiwar candidate George McGovern, decried “the gestapo tactics” of the Chicago police, looking—on live television—directly at Mayor Daley. As confrontations exploded on the convention floor, uniformed police officers dragged several delegates from the auditorium. Watching in shock, NBC anchor Chet Huntley observed, “This surely is the first time policemen have ever entered the floor of a convention.” His coanchor, David Brinkley, wryly added, “In the United States.”
    • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (2018) How Democracies Die. New York: Crown.
  • This is a quality that has appeared often enough in American history — and outside America as well. Senators like Ted Kennedy have been prominent before, bearing names like Henry Clay or Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey. Governors like New York Republican Nelson Rockefeller or Alabama Democrat George Wallace. A Congressman like Jack Kemp. Non-office holders like Martin Luther King in the United States or Mohandas Gandhi in India or Nelson Mandela in South Africa (who later became president of his country) can, through sheer force of personality, come to dominate the political scene of the day without ever bearing a single official title.
  • I love everything he stands for; I just wish he didn't love it so much. He needs a director to tell him when he's made his point. I think he'd have been a good President.
    • Edward G. Robinson, circa 1972, as quoted in Leonard Spigelgass's epilogue to Robinson's All My Yesterdays: An Autobiography (1973), p. 277
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