Eve of great decisions

November 5, 2012

Rick Kogan

There is no doubt that Adlai Stevenson II, the man who ran for president twice against Dwight Eisenhower, lost twice too, was a man of great intelligence, passion and wit. He was also a terrific writer but one who benefited greatly from the aide of a man almost forgotten now, a writer named John Bartlow Martin, who lived much of his life in Highland Park and wrote speeches for Stevenson and also wrote some of the greatest non-fiction stories ever published. You can have a look at some of them by visiting the archives at the Harper’s Magazine web site or you can just sit back and listen now to some of the words from Stevenson’s mouth, words that make much of the current political dialogue seem flat and empty.

Upon accepting his party's nomination at the 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago:

  • “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; 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.”
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  • “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.”

From Stevenson's 'Nature of Patriotism' speech, 1952:

  • “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.”

And other select favorites...

  • “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 II speech to the state committee of the Liberal party, New York 1952.
  • “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.” Speech to the American Federation of Labor, 1952.
  • “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.” –Election eve, November 3, 1952
  • “A hungry man is not a free man.”
  • “A beauty is a woman you notice; a charmer is one who notices you.”