Adlai Stevenson quotes

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Adlai Stevenson

Birthdate: 5. February 1900
Date of death: 14. July 1965

Adlai Ewing Stevenson II was an American lawyer, politician, and diplomat.

A member of the Democratic Party, Stevenson served in numerous positions in the federal government during the 1930s and 1940s, including the Agricultural Adjustment Administration , Federal Alcohol Administration, Department of the Navy, and the State Department. In 1945, he served on the committee that created the United Nations, and he was a member of the initial U.S. delegations to the UN. He was the 31st Governor of Illinois from 1949 to 1953, and received the Democratic Party's nomination for president in the 1952 and 1956 elections.

In both the 1952 and 1956 elections, Stevenson was defeated in landslides by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination for a third time at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, but was defeated by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. After his election, President Kennedy appointed Stevenson as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He served from 1961 until his death. He died on July 14, 1965, from heart failure in London, following a United Nations conference in Switzerland. Following public memorial services in New York City, Washington, DC, and his childhood hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, he was buried in Bloomington.

Noted historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who served as one of his speechwriters, described Stevenson as a "great creative figure in American politics. He turned the Democratic Party around in the fifties and made JFK possible...to the United States and the world he was the voice of a reasonable, civilized, and elevated America. He brought a new generation into politics, and moved millions of people in the United States and around the world." Journalist David Halberstam wrote that "Stevenson's gift to the nation was his language, elegant and well-crafted, thoughtful and calming." His biographer Jean H. Baker stated that Stevenson's memory "still survives...as an expression of a different kind of politics – nobler, more issue-oriented, less compliant to the greedy ambitions of modern politicians, and less driven by public opinion polls and the media." W. Willard Wirtz, his friend and law partner, once said "If the Electoral College ever gives an honorary degree, it should go to Adlai Stevenson."

„That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Supposed response to a woman who called out to him: "Governor, 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.
Disputed

„We must not burn down the house to kill the rats.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Voicing opposition to the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950
Context: 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.

„I believe in the infinite wisdom that envelops and embraces me and from which I take direction, purpose, strength.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Essay in This I Believe : 2 (1952) edited by Edward R. Murrow, p. 142
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Vetoing a Bill that would have imposed fines on owners who allowed cats to run at large. (23 April 1949)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Address to the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois. (21 July 1952); published in Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952) p. 17
Context: 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.

„What a man knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty is, for the most part, incommunicable.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Address at Princeton University, "The Educated Citizen" (22 March 1954) http://infoshare1.princeton.edu/libraries/firestone/rbsc/mudd/online_ex/stevenson/adlai1954.html
Context: 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.

„I do not believe it is man's destiny to compress this once boundless earth into a small neighborhood, the better to destroy it.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Speech in Springfield Illinois (24 October 1952)
Context: 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.

„You will find that the truth is often unpopular and the contest between agreeable fancy and disagreeable fact is unequal.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Commencement address at Michigan State University The New York Times (9 June 1958)
Context: 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.

„Religious experience is highly intimate and, for me, ready words are not at hand.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Essay in This I Believe : 2 (1952) edited by Edward R. Murrow, p. 142
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

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
Context: 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.

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„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.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

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
Context: 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.

„The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this country — the party dedicated to conserving all that is best, and building solidly and safely on these foundations.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Statement during his 1952 presidential campaign, quoted in Unadjusted Man in the Age of Overadjustment: Where History and Literature Intersect (1956) by Peter Viereck; 2004 edition, p. 253; also quoted in his "The New Conservatism: One of Its Founders Asks What Went Wrong", The New Republic (24 September 1962)
Context: The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this 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 the embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric.... Our social-security system and our Democratic Party's sponsorship of the social reforms and advances of the past two decades — conservatism at its best. Certainly there could be nothing more conservative than to change when change is due, to reduce tensions and wants by wise changes, rather than to stand pat stubbornly, until, like King Canute, we are engulfed by relentless forces that will always go too far.

„What do I believe? As an American I believe in generosity, in liberty, in the rights of man.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Essay in This I Believe : 2 (1952) edited by Edward R. Murrow, p. 142
Context: 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.

„We must recover the element of quality in our traditional pursuit of equality.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Speech to the United Parents Association, as quoted in The New York Times (6 April 1958)
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Speech to the Los Angeles Town Club, Los Angeles, California (11 September 1952); Speeches of Adlai Stevenson (1952), p. 36
Context: 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.

„Every man has a right to be heard; but no man has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal cords.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Speech in New York City (28 August 1952)
Context: 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 cords.

„We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times?“

—  Adlai Stevenson

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
Context: 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.

„On this shrunken globe men can no longer live as strangers.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

As quoted in Man of Honor, Man of Peace : The Life and Words of Adlai Stevenson (1965) by Robert L. Polley, p. 61
Context: 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.

„The whole notion of loyalty inquisitions is a national characteristic of the police state, not of democracy.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

Voicing opposition to the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950
Context: 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.

„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.“

—  Adlai Stevenson

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
Context: 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.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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