Quotations by Stevenson, Adlai


You can tell the size of a man by the size of the thing that makes him mad.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
“Faith in Liberalism,” Address, State Committee of the Liberal Party in New York City (28 Aug 1952)

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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
“Putting First Things First”, Foreign Affairs (Jan 1960)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
“The Educated Citizen,” Address, Princeton University (22 Mar 1954)

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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
“The Educated Citizen,” Address, Princeton University (22 Mar 1954)

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Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
(Attributed)
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There is nothing more horrifying than stupidity in action.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
(Attributed)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
(Attributed)

Quoted in Elizabeth Stevenson Ives and H. Dolson, My Brother Adlai (1956).
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There are worse things than losing an election; the worst thing is to lose one’s convictions and not tell the people the truth.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
(Attributed)

In Edward Doyle, As We Knew Adlai: The Stevenson Story by Twenty-two Friends (1966).  In response to the suggestion his support for a nuclear test ban would cost him votes.

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Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
(Attributed)
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It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
(Attributed)
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Every day, for example, politicians, of which there are plenty, swear eternal devotion to the ends of peace and security. They always remind me of the elder Holmes’ apostrophe to a katydid: “Thou say’st an undisputed thing in such a solemn way.” And every day statesmen, of which there are few, must struggle with limited means to achieve these unlimited ends, both in fact and in understanding. For the nation’s purposes always exceed its means, and it is finding a balance between means and ends that is the heart of foreign policy and that makes it such a speculative, uncertain business.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Call to Greatness (1954)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Call to Greatness (1954)
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We have confused the free with the free and easy.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Putting First Things (1960)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Commencement Address, Michigan State University (8 Jun 1958)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Comment, after his presidential nomination acceptance speech, Chicago (18 Aug 1956)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Essay, This I Believe, Vol. 2 (1952) [ed. E. Murrow]
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“Via ovicipitum dura est,” or, for the benefit of the engineers among you: “The way of the egghead is hard.”

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Lecture, Harvard University (17 Mar 1954)

Quoted in Stevenson, Call to Greatness, Foreward (1954)
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I am not sure what it means when one says that he is a conservative in fiscal affairs and a liberal in human affairs. I assume what it means is that you will strongly recommend the building of a great many schools to accommodate the needs of our children, but not provide the money.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
News conference (Fall 1955)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Nomination Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, Chicago (26 Jul 1952)
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Self-criticism is the secret weapon of democracy.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Nomination Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, Chicago (26 Jul 1952)
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The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Quoted in NY Times (19 Jan 1962)
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He who slings mud generally loses ground.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Quoted in news summaries (11 Jan 1954)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Radio address (11 Apr 1955)
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Nature is indifferent to the survival of the human species, including Americans.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Radio address (29 Sep 1952)
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It reminds me of the small boy who jumbled his Biblical quotations and said: “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord, and a very present help in trouble.”

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech (1951)

(mingling Proverbs 12:22 and Psalms 46:1)
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Though progress may be slow, it may be steady and sure.  A wise man does not try to hurry history. Many wars have been avoided by patience and many have been precipitated by reckless haste.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech (1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech (3 Nov 1952)
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The rock-bottom foundation of a free press is the integrity of the people who run it.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech to Journalists, Portland (8 Sep. 1952)
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The rock-bottom foundation of a free press is the integrity of the people who run it.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech to journalists, Portland, Oregon (8 Sep 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, American Legion convention, New York City (27 Aug 1952)
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Men who have offered their lives for their country know that patriotism is not the fear of something; it is the love of something.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, American Legion convention, New York City (27 Aug 1952)
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True Patriotism, it seems to me, is based on tolerance and a large measure of humility.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, American Legion convention, New York City (27 Aug 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, American Legion convention, New York City (27 Aug 1952)
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Understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Columbus, Ohio (3 Oct 1952)
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What counts now is not just what we are against, but what we are for.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Democratic National Convention, Chicago (21 Jul 1952)
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Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Denver, Colorado (5 Sep 1952)
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My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Detroit (7 Oct 1952)
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The government must be the trustee for the little man because no one else will be. The powerful can usually help themselves — and frequently do.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Duluth, Minnesota (29 Oct 1955)
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The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Fresno, California (11 Oct 1956)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Fresno, California (19 Sep 1952)

A favorite quip of Stevenson's.
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If I were to attempt to put my political philosophy tonight into a single phrase, it would be this: Trust the people. Trust their good sense, their decency, their fortitude, their faith. Trust them with the facts. Trust them with the great decisions. And fix as our guiding star the passion to create a society where people can fulfill their own best selves — where no American is held down by race or color, by worldly condition or social status, from gaining what his character earns him as an American citizen, as a human being and as a child of God.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Harrisburg, Penn. (13 Sep 1956)
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Nature is neutral. Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or to make the desert bloom. There is no evil in the atom; only in men’s souls.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Hartford, Connecticut (18 Sep 1952)
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We must never delude ourselves into thinking that physical power is a substitute for moral power, which is the true sign of national greatness.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Hartford, Connecticut (18 Sep 1952)
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In America any boy may become President, and I suppose it’s just one of the risks he takes.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Indianapolis, Indiana (26 Sep 1952)

Sometimes quoted as: "In America, anybody can be president. That's one of the risks you take."
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A hungry man is not a free man.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Kasson, Minnesota (6 Sep 1952)
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Your public servants serve you right.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Los Angeles (11 Sep 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Los Angeles Town Club (11 Sep 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Los Angeles Town Club (11 Sep 1952)
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The mind is the expression of the soul, which belongs to God and must be let alone by government.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Mormon Tabernacle Temple, Salt Lake City (14 Oct 1952)
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Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, National Guard Armory, Albuquerque (12 Sep 1952)
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Laws are never as effective as habits.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, New York City (28 Aug 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, New York City (28 Aug 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Opposing the McCarran Internal Security Act (1950)
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We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Richmond, Virginia (20 Sep 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Springfield Illinois (24 Oct 1952)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, UN Economic and Social Council, Geneva, Switzerland (9 Jul 1965)
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Ignorance is stubborn and prejudice dies hard.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, United Nations (1 Oct 1963)
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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.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, University of Wisconsin, Madison (8 Oct 1952)
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Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, University of Wisconsin, Madison (8 Oct 1952)
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To act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the test of a man — and also a nation.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Wire services (11 Apr 1955)
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