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This is about the mid-20th-century politician and diplomat who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956; for other American politicians so named, see Adlai Stevenson (disambiguation).
Adlai Stevenson


In office
1961 – 1965
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by James J. Wadsworth
Succeeded by Arthur Goldberg

In office
January 10, 1949 – January 12, 1953
Lieutenant Sherwood Dixon
Preceded by Dwight H. Green
Succeeded by William Stratton

Born February 5, 1900(1900-02-05)
Los Angeles, California
Died July 14, 1965 (aged 65)
London, England, United Kingdom
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ellen Borden (married 1928, divorced 1949)
Alma mater Princeton University
Northwestern University Law School
Religion Unitarian[1]
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Seaman Apprentice

Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (pronounced /ˈædleɪ/; February 5, 1900 – July 14, 1965) was an American politician, noted for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent oratory, and promotion of liberal causes in the Democratic Party. He served one term as governor of Illinois, and received the Democratic Party's nomination for president in 1952 and 1956; both times he was defeated by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination for a third time in the election of 1960, but was defeated by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. After his election, President Kennedy appointed Stevenson as the Ambassador to the United Nations; he served from 1961 to 1965. He died on 14 July 1965 in London, England after suffering a fatal heart attack at age 65.

Contents

Childhood, education, and early career

Although Stevenson was born in Los Angeles, he was a member of a famous Illinois political family. His grandfather Adlai E. Stevenson I had been Vice President of the United States under President Grover Cleveland from 1893-1897. His father, Lewis Green Stevenson, never held an elected office, but was appointed Secretary of State of Illinois and was considered a strong contender for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination in 1928. A maternal great-grandfather, Jesse W. Fell, had been a close friend and campaign manager for Abraham Lincoln; Stevenson often referred to Fell as his "favorite" ancestor. His mother was Helen Davis Stevenson.

Stevenson was raised in the small city of Bloomington, Illinois; his family was a member of Bloomington's upper class and lived in one of the city's well-to-do neighborhoods. At the age of twelve Stevenson accidentally killed Ruth Merwin, a 16-year-old friend, while demonstrating drill technique with a rifle, inadvertently left loaded, during a party at the Stevenson home.[2] Stevenson was devastated by the accident and rarely referred to it as an adult. However, as the Governor of Illinois he was told about a teenager who had survived an automobile accident while his friend was killed. Stevenson told the teen's father that he should tell his son that "he now has to live for two", which Stevenson's friends took to be a reference to the shooting incident.

Stevenson left Bloomington after his junior year in high school and attended University High School in Normal, Illinois, just to the north. He then went to boarding school in Connecticut at The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall), where he participated in sports, acted in plays, and was elected editor-in-chief of The News, the school newspaper. Upon his graduation from Choate in 1918, he enlisted in the Navy and served at the rank of Seaman Apprentice, but his training was completed too late for him to participate in World War I.

He attended Princeton University, becoming managing editor of The Daily Princetonian and a member of the Quadrangle Club, and receiving a B.A. degree in 1922 in literature or history.[3] He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity there. He then went to Harvard Law School under prodding from his father but failed several classes and withdrew. He returned to Bloomington where he wrote for the family newspaper, The Daily Pantagraph, which was founded by his maternal great grandfather Jesse W. Fell, who had also served as Abraham Lincoln's campaign manager in his 1858 race for the US Senate.

Stevenson became interested in the law again a year or so after leaving Harvard after talking to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.. When he returned home to Bloomington, he decided to finish his law degree at Northwestern University School of Law, attending classes during the week and returning to Bloomington on the weekends to write for the Pantagraph. Stevenson received his LL.B. law degree from Northwestern in 1926 and passed the Illinois State Bar examination that year. He obtained a position at Cutting, Moore & Sidley, an old and conservative Chicago law firm.

In 1928 Stevenson married Ellen Borden, a well-to-do socialite. The young couple soon became popular and familiar figures on the Chicago social scene. In 1935 they purchased a 70-acre (280,000 m2) tract of land along the Des Plaines River near Libertyville, Illinois, a wealthy suburb of Chicago. They built a home on the property and it served as Stevenson's official residence for the rest of his life. Although he spent relatively little time there due to his career, Stevenson did consider the farm to be his home, and in the 1950s he was often called "The Man from Libertyville" by the national news media.

1933 to 1948

In July 1933, Stevenson took a job opportunity as special attorney and assistant to Jerome Frank, the general counsel of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1934, Stevenson changed jobs, becoming chief attorney for the Federal Alcohol Control Administration (FACA), a subsidiary of the AAA which regulated the activities of the alcohol industry.

In 1935, Stevenson returned to Chicago to practice law. He became involved in civic activities, particularly as chairman of the Chicago branch of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (known often as the White Committee, after its founder, William Allen White).

In 1940, Colonel Frank Knox, newly appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Secretary of the Navy, offered Stevenson a position as Principal Attorney and special assistant. In this capacity, Stevenson wrote speeches, represented Secretary Knox and the Navy on committees, toured the various theaters of war, and handled many administrative duties. From December 1943 to January 1944, he participated in a special mission to Sicily and Italy for the Foreign Economic Administration to report on the country's economy. A report he wrote following that mission was very well regarded, and he was offered several jobs as a result.

After Knox died in April 1944, Stevenson returned to Chicago where he attempted to purchase Knox's controlling interest in the Chicago Daily News, but his syndicate was outbid by another party.

In 1945, Stevenson accepted what he called a "temporary" position in the State Department, as special assistant to the Secretary of State to work with Assistant Secretary of State Archibald MacLeish on a proposed world organization. Later that year, he went to London as Deputy United States Delegate to the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations Organization, a position he held until February 1946. When the head of the delegation fell ill, Stevenson assumed his role. His work at the Commission, and in particular his dealings with the representatives of the Soviet Union, resulted in appointments to the US delegations to the UN in 1946 and 1947.

1948 election as Illinois governor

In 1948, Stevenson entered the Illinois gubernatorial race as a Democrat, and in an upset victory he defeated incumbent Republican Dwight H. Green in a landslide. Principal among his achievements as Illinois governor were reorganizing the state police, cracking down on illegal gambling, and improving the state highways. He was a popular public speaker, gaining a reputation as an intellectual, with a self-deprecating sense of humor to match.

In 1949, Governor Stevenson appeared as a character witness in the first trial of Alger Hiss.

In 1949, Adlai Stevenson was divorced by his wife, Ellen Borden Stevenson. They had been married for 21 years and had three sons.

1952 presidential bid

From left: President Harry S. Truman, Vice Presidential nominee, Alabama Senator John J. Sparkman and Presidential nominee, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. Oval Office, 1952

Early in 1952, while Stevenson was still governor of Illinois, President Harry S. Truman decided that he would not seek another term as president. Instead, Truman met with Stevenson in Washington and proposed that Stevenson seek the Democratic nomination for president; Truman promised him his support if he did so. Stevenson at first hesitated, arguing that he was committed to running for a second gubernatorial term in Illinois. However, a number of his friends and associates (such as George Wildman Ball) quietly began organizing a "draft Stevenson" movement for President; they persisted in their activity even when Stevenson (both publicly and privately) told them to stop. When Stevenson continued to state that he was not a candidate, President Truman and the "bosses" of the Democratic Party looked for other prospective candidates. However, each of the other main contenders had a major weakness. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee won most of the primaries, but he was unpopular with President Truman and other prominent Democrats, who saw him as a party maverick who could not be trusted. Senator Richard Russell, Jr. of Georgia was popular in the South, but his support of segregation and opposition to civil rights for blacks made him unacceptable to Northern and Western Democrats. Truman favored U.S. diplomat W. Averell Harriman, but he had never held elective office and was inexperienced in national politics. Truman next turned to his Vice-President, Alben Barkley, but at 74 years of age he was dismissed as being too old by labor union leaders. In the end Stevenson, despite his reluctance to run, remained the most attractive candidate heading into the Democratic Convention.

A poster from the 1952 campaign

At the 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Stevenson, as the governor of the host state, was assigned to give the welcoming address to the delegates. His speech was so stirring and witty that it helped stampede his nomination. Despite his protestations, the delegates drafted him, and he accepted the Democratic nomination with a speech that according to contemporaries, "electrified the nation:"

When the tumult and the shouting die, when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility in an hour of history haunted with those gaunt, grim specters of strife, dissension, and materialism at home, and ruthless, inscrutable, and hostile power abroad. The ordeal of the twentieth century – the bloodiest, most turbulent age of the Christian era – is far from over. Sacrifice, patience, understanding, and implacable purpose may be our lot for years to come. ... 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.

Although Stevenson's eloquent oratory and thoughtful, stylish demeanor impressed many intellectuals and members of the nation's academic community, the Republicans and some working-class Democrats ridiculed what they perceived as his indecisive, aristocratic air. During the 1952 campaign Stewart Alsop, a powerful Connecticut Republican and the brother of newspaper columnist Joseph Alsop, labeled Stevenson an "egghead", based on his baldness and intellectual air. Joe Alsop used the word in a column describing Stevenson's problems in wooing working-class voters, and the nickname stuck. Stevenson himself made fun of his "egghead" nickname; in one speech he joked "eggheads of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your yolks!" His running mate was Senator John Sparkman of Alabama. In the 1952 presidential election against Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eisenhower won the popular vote by 55% to 45%. Stevenson lost heavily outside the Solid South; he won only nine states and lost the Electoral College vote 442 to 89. In his concession speech on election night, Stevenson quoted a story told by Abraham Lincoln to describe how he felt: "it hurts too much to laugh, but I'm too old to cry."

During the campaign, a photograph revealed a hole in the sole of Adlai's right shoe.[4] This became a well-known symbol of Adlai's frugality and earthiness. Photographer Bill Gallagher of the Flint Journal won the 1953 Pulitzer prize on the strength of the image.[5]

Following his defeat, Stevenson traveled throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe, writing about his travels for Look magazine. Although he was not sent as an official emissary of the U.S. government, Stevenson's international reputation gave him access to many foreign officials.

1956 presidential bid

With Eisenhower headed for another landslide, few Democrats wanted the 1956 nomination. Although challenged by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver and New York Governor W. Averell Harriman, Stevenson campaigned more aggressively to secure the nomination than he had in 1952, and Kefauver conceded after losing several key primaries. To Stevenson's dismay, former president Truman endorsed Harriman, but the blow was softened by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt's continued support. Stevenson again won the nomination at the 1956 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, becoming the last Unitarian to be nominated for the presidency by a major party. He was aided by strong support from younger delegates, who were said to form the core of the "New Politics" movement. He permitted the convention delegates to choose Senator Kefauver as his running mate, despite stiff competition from Senator John F. Kennedy. Following his nomination, Stevenson waged a vigorous presidential campaign, delivering 300 speeches and traveling 55,000 miles (89,000 km). He called on the electorate to join him in a march to a "new America", based on a liberal agenda that anticipated the programs of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. His call for a Partial Test Ban Treaty to aboveground nuclear weapons tests proved premature and lost him support.

While President Eisenhower suffered heart problems, the economy enjoyed robust health. Stevenson's hopes for victory were dashed when, in October, President Eisenhower's doctors gave him a clean bill of health and the Suez and Hungary crises erupted simultaneously. The public was not convinced that a change in leadership was needed. Stevenson lost his second bid for the Presidency by a landslide, winning only 42% of the popular vote and 73 electoral votes in the 1956 presidential election.

Despite his two defeats, Stevenson considered a third nomination. Early in 1957, he resumed law practice, allying himself with Judge Simon H. Rifkind in a firm based in Washington, D.C. (Stevenson, Paul, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison) and another in Chicago (Stevenson, Rifkind & Wirtz), both related to New York City's Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Associates included W. Willard Wirtz, William McC. Blair Jr. and Newton N. Minow. He also accepted an appointment on the new Democratic Advisory Council, with other prominent Democrats. He was employed part-time by the Encyclopædia Britannica.

1960-1965

Prior to the 1960 Democratic National Convention, Stevenson announced that he was not seeking the Democratic nomination for president, but would accept a draft. Because he still hoped to be a candidate, Stevenson refused to give the nominating address for relative newcomer John F. Kennedy, which strained relations between the two men. Once Kennedy won the nomination, Stevenson, always an enormously popular public speaker, campaigned actively for him. Due to his two presidential nominations and previous United Nations experience, Stevenson perceived himself an elder statesman and a natural choice for United States Secretary of State, an opinion shared by few in the Kennedy camp. The prestigious post went to the (then) little-known Dean Rusk and Stevenson was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. There, he worked hard to support U.S. foreign policy, even when he personally disagreed with some of Kennedy's actions.

In April 1961, Stevenson suffered the greatest humiliation of his career. After an attack against Fidel Castro's Communist forces at the Bay of Pigs, Stevenson unwittingly disputed allegations that the attack was financed and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, claiming instead that the anti-Communist forces were supported by wealthy Cuban émigrés. When Stevenson learned that he had been misled by the White House, and even supplied with CIA-forged photographs, he considered resigning the ambassadorship, but was convinced not to do so.

"Until Hell Freezes Over"

Stevenson shows aerial photos of Cuban missiles to the United Nations.

His most famous moment came on October 25, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, when he gave a presentation at an emergency session of the Security Council. He forcefully asked the Soviet representative, Valerian Zorin, if his country was installing missiles in Cuba, punctuated with the famous demand "Don't wait for the translation, answer 'yes' or 'no'!" Following Zorin's refusal to answer the abrupt question, Stevenson retorted, "I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over." In one of the most memorable moments in U.N. history, Stevenson then showed photographs that proved the existence of missiles in Cuba, just after the Soviet ambassador had implied they did not exist.

Stevenson was assaulted by an anti-United Nations protester in Dallas, Texas, on October 24, 1963, one month before the assassination of Kennedy in that same city. A woman carrying an anti-United Nations sign hit Stevenson in the head with the sign. A man spat on him and on a policeman. Amid the furor, Adlai Stevenson said of his assailants: 'I don't want to send them to jail. I want to send them to school.'"[6]

While walking in London with Marietta Tree through Grosvenor Square, Stevenson suffered a heart attack on the afternoon of July 14, 1965, and died later that day of heart failure at St George's Hospital in London, England.

Marietta Tree recalled:

[After leaving the Embassy] [w]e walked around the neighborhood a little bit and where his house had been where he had lived with his family at the end of the War, there was now an apartment house and he said that makes me feel so old. Indeed, the whole walk made him feel very not so much nostalgic but so much older. As we were walking along the street he said do not walk quite so fast and do hold your head up Marietta. I was burrowing ahead trying to get to the park as quickly as possible and then the next thing I knew, I turned around and I saw he'd gone white, gray really, and he fell and his hand brushed me as he fell and he hit the pavement with the most terrible crack and I thought he'd fractured his skull.

That night in her diary, she wrote, "Adlai is dead. We were together."[7] Following memorial services at the United Nations General Assembly Hall (on July 19, 1965), and in Washington, D.C.; Springfield, Illinois; and Bloomington, Illinois, Stevenson was interred in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, Bloomington, Illinois. The funeral in Bloomington's Unitarian Church was attended by many national figures, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Additional facts of note

He classified himself as a Unitarian. Adlai Stevenson: "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 [Universalist], 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."

Adlai Stevenson statue showing hole in sole of shoe

Stevenson's wit was legendary. During one of Stevenson's presidential campaigns, allegedly, a supporter told him that he was sure to "get the vote of every thinking man" in the U.S., to which Stevenson is said to have replied, "Thank you, but I need a majority to win."[8]

On another campaign occasion, he was somewhat rudely introduced at a Houston Baptist convention in the following way: "Gov. Stevenson, we want to make it clear you are here as a courtesy because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has instructed us to vote for your opponent." Stevenson stepped to the podium and quipped, "Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling."[9]

Stevenson's father, Lewis G. Stevenson, was Illinois secretary of state (1914–1917). Stevenson's eldest son, Adlai E. Stevenson III, was a U.S. Senator from Illinois (1970–1981). Actor McLean Stevenson was a second cousin once removed.[10]

The Central Illinois Regional Airport near Bloomington has a whimsical statue of Stevenson, sitting on a bench with his feet propped on his briefcase and his head in one hand, as if waiting for his flight. He is depicted wearing the shoes that he famously wore during one of his campaigns, with a hole worn in the sole from all the miles he had walked in an effort to win the election[11] and which became a campaigning symbol.[12]

Stevenson in popular culture

Stevenson has been referenced in television episodes of The Simpsons (in the episodes "Lisa the Iconoclast" and "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson"), The Golden Girls[13], Happy Days (in the Jan 28, 1975, episode "The Not Making of the President")[14] and Mystery Science Theater 3000's presentation of Manos - The Hands of Fate (a Stevenson lookalike buys a car and one of the MST3K characters comments on it). Murphy Brown briefly names her newborn son 'Adlai Stevenson'.

Stevenson has also been referenced in films. Most notably, Peter Sellers claimed that his portrayal of President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove was modeled on Stevenson.[15] Stevenson's legendary "Don't wait for the translation" speech to Russian ambassador Valerian Zorin during the Cuban Missile Crisis inspired dialogue in a courtroom scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.[16] The historical speech itself is depicted in the 2000 film Thirteen Days with Michael Fairman playing Stevenson, as well as partially depicted in the 1974 television play The Missiles of October. Stevenson is also referenced in Wayne's World 2 ("Waynestock" is held in an Aurora, Illinois park named for Stevenson), Plain Clothes (the high school is named for Stevenson), Annie Hall (Woody Allen's character tells a standup joke about the Stevenson-Eisenhower campaign) and Breakfast at Tiffany's.[17]

Stevenson comes close to being assassinated by a 12-year-old in James Patrick Kelly's Hugo Award-winning novelette, "1016 to 1" (1999). In David Gerrold's short story "The Impeachment of Adlai Stevenson", featured in the anthology Alternate Presidents, Stevenson is elected President in 1952 and 1956, but impeached in 1958, with his Vice President, John Kennedy, succeeding him. In Robin Gerber's novel Eleanor vs. Ike, Stevenson suffers a fatal heart attack as he approaches the podium to accept the Democratic nomination in 1952.

The Avalanche, an album by acclaimed folk artist Sufjan Stevens, contains a song called "Adlai Stevenson".

Adlai Stevenson was quoted in the legal Drama, Boston Legal. While Alan Shore defends a client who had withheld her taxes to protest the current state of America, he quotes Stevenson's Nature of Patriotism speech. "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 the freedom of the mind, are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism." What has changed now, he argues, is the cloak has morphed into anti-terrorism.

Schools and other entities named after Stevenson

References

  • Baker, Jean H. (1996). The Stevensons: A Biography of An American Family. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-03874-2.  
  • Broadwater, Jeff. Adlai Stevenson and American Politics: The Odyssey of a Cold War Liberal. Twayne, 1994. 291 pp
  • Cowden, Jonathan A. Adlai Stevenson: a Retrospective. Princeton University Library Chronicle 2000 61(3): 322-359. ISSN 0032-8456
  • McKeever, Porter (1989). Adlai Stevenson: His Life and Legacy. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-06661-5.  
  • Martin, John Bartlow . Adlai Stevenson of Illinois: The Life of Adlai E. Stevenson (1976) and Adlai Stevenson and the World: The Life of Adlai E. Stevenson (1977), the standard scholarly biography
  • |Murphy, John M. Civic Republicanism in the Modern Age: Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 Presidential Campaign Quarterly Journal of Speech 1994 80(3): 313-328. ISSN 0033-5630
  • Slaybaugh, Douglas. Adlai Stevenson, Television, and the Presidential Campaign of 1956 Illinois Historical Journal 1996 89(1): 2-16. ISSN 0748-8149
  • Slaybaugh, Douglas. Political Philosophy or Partisanship: a Dilemma in Adlai Stevenson's Published Writings, 1953-1956. Wisconsin Magazine of History 1992 75(3): 163-194. ISSN 0043-6534. Argues, by 1956, Stevenson had alienated many of his well-placed and well-educated supporters without winning over many new rank-and-file Democrats.
  • White, Mark J. Hamlet in New York: Adlai Stevenson During the First Week of the Cuban Missile Crisis" Illinois Historical Journal 1993 86(2): 70-84. ISSN 0748-8149
  • Stevenson, Adlai. The Papers of Adlai E. Stevenson (8 vol) 1972)
  • Blair, William McC. ed. Adlai Stevenson's Legacy: Reminiscences by His Friends and Family. Princeton University Library Chronicle (2000) 61(3): 360-403. ISSN 0032-8456 Reminiscences by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., William McC. Blair, Adlai Stevenson III, Newton N. Minow, and Willard Wirtz.
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Notes

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Dwight H. Green
Governor of Illinois
1949 – 1953
Succeeded by
William G. Stratton
Party political offices
Preceded by
Harry S. Truman
Democratic Party presidential candidate
1952, 1956
Succeeded by
John F. Kennedy
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James J. Wadsworth
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
1961 – 1965
Succeeded by
Arthur Goldberg

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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.

Contents

Sourced

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
  • Laws are never as effective as habits.
    • Speech, 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)
  • 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 September1952); 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
  • 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)
  • The time to stop a revolution is at the beginning, not the end.
    • Speech, San Francisco, California (9 September 1952)
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)
  • 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, Ch. 7
  • We live in an era of revolution — the revolution of rising expectations.
    • Look (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
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
  • 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)
For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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."

Disputed

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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).

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