Warren G. Harding

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America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy...

Warren Gamaliel Harding (2 November 18652 August 1923) was the 29th President of the United States, serving from 1921 to 1923, when he became the sixth president to die in office, most likely due to heart disease.


  • In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.
    • Address to the 1916 Republican convention.
  • America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.
    • Speech in Boston, Massachusetts (24 May 1920); Harding is often thought to have coined the word "normalcy" in this speech, but the word is recorded as early as the 1850s as alternative to "normality".
  • Practically all we know is that thousands of native Haitians have been killed by American Marines, and that many of our own gallant men have sacrificed their lives at the behest of an Executive department in order to establish laws drafted by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. … I will not empower an Assistant Secretary of the Navy to draft a constitution for helpless neighbors in the West Indies and jam it down their throats at the point of bayonets borne by US Marines.
    • Speech during Warren Harding's 1920 presidental campaign, critizing Woodrow Wilson's Haitian policies; quoted in Democracy at the Point of Bayonets (1999) by Mark Penceny, p. 2. (The Assistant Secretary of the Navy he refers to is Franklin Roosevelt, who was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1920).
  • I want to acclaim the day when America is the most eminent of the shipping nations. A big navy and a big merchant marine are necessary to the future of the country...The United States, before the war, never seriously contested and had no thought of contesting Great Britain’s dominance in shipping, but since, as an incident of the war, we installed a huge shipbuilding plant and became the owners of what was, for us, an unprecedented quantity of tonnage, we have come to be ambitious in this field. If the aggregate mind of our business world were distilled, it would probably be found, consciously or unconsciously, that we now have a national ambition to contest Great Britain’s shipping dominance. If we are to achieve a position in shipping and foreign trade comparable with that which Great Britain has had for many generations, we can only do so through time, patience, and the building up of the reputation for commercial skill and integrity that makes Great Britain’s prestige in every part of Asia and Africa...We are witnessing and participating in one of those great incidents in world-history which occur only once in several centuries, and which will be a subject for poets and historians for generations to come.
    • Speech at Norfolk, Virginia (4 December 1920), quoted in The Times (6 December 1920), p. 17.
  • Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.
    • Speech delivered to a segregated, mixed race audience at Woodrow Wilson Park in Birmingham, Alabama on the occasion of the city's semicentennial, published in the Birmingham Post (27 October 1921) quoted in Political Power in Birmingham, 1871-1921 (1977) by Carl V. Harris (1977) University of Tennessee Press, ISBN 087049211X.
  • Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little.
    • Inaugural address (4 March 1921).
  • The success of our popular government rests wholly upon the correct interpretation of the deliberate, intelligent, dependable popular will of America.
    • Inaugural address (4 March 1921).
  • There is something inherently wrong, something out of accord with the ideals of representative democracy, when one portion of our citizenship turns its activities to private gain amid defensive war while another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying for national preservation.
    • Inaugural address (4 March 1921).
  • The black man should seek to be, and he should be encouraged to be, the best possible black man and not the best possible imitation of a white man.
    • Speech delivered in Birmingham, Alabama, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, 27 October 1921, p. 2.
  • I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my god-damned friends, White, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor nights!
    • Remark to editor William Alan White, quoted in Thomas Harry Williams et al. (1959) A History of the United States.
  • I don't know what to do or where to turn in this taxation matter. Somewhere there must be a book that tells all about it, where I could go to straighten it out in my mind. But I don't know where the book is, and maybe I couldn't read it if I found it.
    • Remark to Judson Welliver, as quoted in Francis Russell (1968) The Shadow of Blooming Grove.
  • I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.
    • Quoted in Nicholas Murray Butler (1939) Across the Busy Years vol. 1.


  • It is my conviction that the fundamental trouble with the people of the United States is that they have gotten too far away from Almighty God.
    • Relayed by Bishop William F. Anderson as a remark by a friend of Harding, in "Pictures Harding as Man of Prayer" (2 April 1922) New York Times


  • I don't know much about Americanism, but it's a damn good word with which to carry an election.
    • Actually an exchange between journalist Talcott Williams and Sen. Boies Penrose (1919)
      • What is Americanism?
        Damn if I know, but it's going to be a damn good word with which to carry an election.

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