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Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (5 February 1900 – 14 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.
Born: February 5th, 1900
Died: July 14th, 1965
Quotes: 115 sourced quotes total (includes 3 misattributed, 3 disputed, 4 about)
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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.
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.
That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!
Whenever I hear one of these old guard leaders on the other side talking about cutting taxes, when he knows it means weakening the nation, I always think of that story about the tired old capitalist who was driving alone in his car one day, and finally, he said "James, drive over the bluff; I want to commit suicide."
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.
A hungry man is not a free man.
It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.
A beauty is a woman you notice; a charmer is one who notices you.
We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.
There was a time when a fool and his money were soon parted, but now it happens to everybody.
Communism is the corruption of a dream of justice.
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.
He who slings mud generally loses ground.
The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.
She would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world.
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.
Some people approach every problem with an open mouth.
An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.
In America any boy may become President, and I suppose it's just one of the risks he takes.
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.
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.
Words calculated to catch everyone may catch no one.
Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them.
There is no evil in the atom, only in men's souls.
For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.
Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.
Every age needs men who will redeem the time by living with a vision of the things that are to be.
Man is a strange animal. He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.
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.
Peace is the one condition of survival in this nuclear age.
You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing that makes him mad.
That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the White House...
Saskatchewan is much like Texas — except it's more friendly to the United States.
The Republicans have a "me too" candidate running on a "yes but" platform, advised by a "has been" staff.
Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction.
Nixon is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump for a speech on conservation.
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.
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?
Never run against a war hero.
Laws are never as effective as habits.
A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth.
Men may be born free; they cannot be born wise; and it is the duty of the university to make the free wise.
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.
Do you remember that in classical times when Cicero had finished speaking, the people said, "How well he spoke"; but when Demosthenes had finished speaking, they said, "Let us march."
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.
The whole basis of the United Nations is the right of all nations great or small — to have weight, to have a vote, to be attended to, to be a part of the twentieth century.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Freedom rings where opinions clash.
Adlai Stevenson squats to piss.
Ignorance is stubborn and prejudice dies hard.
The Republicans stroke platitudes until they purr like epigrams.
Some war hero is always getting in my way.
We have confused the free with the free and easy.
The human race has improved everything but the human race.
Nature is indifferent to the survival of the human species, including Americans.
The time to stop a revolution is at the beginning, not the end.
A diplomat's life is made up of three ingredients: protocol, Geritol and alcohol.
An Independent is someone who wants to take the politics out of politics.
We mean by "politics" the people's business — the most important business there is.
True Patriotism, it seems to me, is based on tolerance and a large measure of humility.
I have sometimes said that flattery is all right, Mr. President, if you don't inhale it.
After four years at the United Nations I sometimes yearn for the peace and tranquillity of a political convention.
The Republican party makes even its young men seem old; the Democratic Party makes even its old men seem young.
Well, speaking as a Christian, I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.
We hear the Secretary of State boasting of his brinkmanship — the art of bringing us to the edge of the abyss.
There are worse things than losing an election; the worst thing is to lose one's convictions and not tell the people the truth.
A wise man does not try to hurry history. Many wars have been avoided by patience and many have been precipitated by reckless haste.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
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. 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.