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Current Events Quotations:
Welcome to my page of quotations about topics surrounding the first few weeks of the new White House administration, policies, Donald Trump's style of governing, and a divided America. Experts and lay citizens alike are saying that in this recent election and new administration are things that have never been seen before. And while that is true in several ways, it brings to my mind many quotations from history showing that much of it is nowhere near new. So please enjoy these older quotes that apply so well to current events. There are some very recent quotes mixed in too. I've added the year to each quote for historical context. Compiled and posted January 25th with a few new additions through February 16th, 2017. A few of these are [as noted] borrowed from Leonard Roy Frank (1932–2015), Quotationary, and William Patrick Martin's What Liberals Believe — both highly recommended books! Thank you so much, gentlemen, for your fantastic work.
The free market should not include the right to pollute our environment. ~George S. McGovern, 1989 [Frank]
When presidents fail to recognize that an enemy on one issue can be an ally on another, they serve the people badly. ~Joseph A. Califano, Jr., 1975 [Frank]
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. ~Albert Einstein, 1929
When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal. ~Richard Nixon, 1977 May 20th, television interview
An honest, fearless press is the public's first protection against gangsterism, local or international. ~Richard Brooks, 1952
To wish the greatness of our own country is often to wish evil to our neighbors. ~Voltaire, 1764
You think you can fix everything, change everything. But there will come a day when things cannot be fixed. And, you know what, it will be a day just like today. ~American Indian elder, quoted by Kent Nerburn, "Thoughts on the Dakota Access Pipeline," 2016
No one should approach the temple of science with the soul of a money changer. ~Thomas Browne, 17th century, attributed
When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. I'm beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow, quoted by Irving Stone in 1941
Let America realize that self-scrutiny is not treason, self-examination is not disloyalty. ~Richard Cushing, 1965
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." ~Isaac Asimov, in Newsweek, 1980 January 21st
You can't talk sense to people who oppose it on principle. ~Robert Brault, 2016
[S]ometimes a scream is better than a thesis. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, protest against Cherokee expulsion, 1838
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. ~Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture, 1986 December 11th
A time comes when silence is betrayal. ~Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, 1967 #protests #Sally Yates
I'm sick of all this illegal immigration into this country. I think we ought to send every illegal back. But instead of starting with the newest arrivals, I think we should start with the ones that have been here illegally the longest. After all, they've been breaking the law longer. So, it's about time we threw those English bastards out. Send them back to where they came from! They crossed over into this land uninvited, with their guns and diseased blankets and slave trade, and settled in like they own the place. ~Cenk Uygur, "Nativists for Native Americans," HuffingtonPost.com, 2006 April 12th
In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops. ~Paul Brooks, 1971
When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned. ~Herbert Hoover, 1964
Today intimidation of the press is a standard item on the agenda of the organized political right. There are self-appointed monitors who circulate denunciations of articles and television programs that depart from their ideology. ~Anthony Lewis, "Have we reverted to a 'reverential' relationship with the presidency?", 1989
The first duty of a newspaper is to be accurate. If it be accurate, it follows that it is fair. ~Herbert Bayard Swope, 1958
"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"
"And if the Party says that it is not four but five — then how many?"
"Four.... Two and two are four."
"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane." ⁂ O'Brien smiled slightly. "You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out." ~George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949
My dream is that as the years go on... that America will come into the full light of the day when all shall know that she puts human rights above all other rights and that her flag is the flag not only of America but of humanity. What other great people has devoted itself to this exalted ideal? ~Woodrow Wilson, Presidential Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914 July 4th
Perhaps the most central characteristic of authentic leadership is the relinquishing of the impulse to dominate others. ~David Cooper, "The Anti-Hospital: An Experiment in Psychiatry" (Murdering Personality), in New Society, January 1965
When it comes to voting rights, Democrats push voter protection while Republicans shout voter fraud in a crowded polling place. Democrats think anyone who can vote should vote; Republicans think everyone who should vote can vote. ~Christine Pelosi, October 2010
Possible controversy for the Obama campaign: Republicans are now accusing Barack Obama's campaign of voter fraud because some of the people they've registered sound like they have fake names. Apparently, the fakest-sounding name is Barack Obama. ~Conan O'Brien, 2009
Gunplay in our nation is almost as much a national pastime as baseball. And, with the never-ending, inadequately controlled abundant supply of firearms, we're killing ourselves more effectively than any terrorist organization could. ~Monroe Anderson, "We're killing ourselves more effectively than terrorists," Chicago Sun-Times, 2006 July 30th
The more I observe the main effects of a free press, the more convinced am I that, in the modern world, freedom of the press is the principal and, so to say, the constitutive element in freedom. ~Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th century
The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen. ~Tom Smothers, 1960s
Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. ~Potter Stewart, United States v. Ginzburg, 1965
Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. ~Richard Aldington [latter half of the phrase goes back to the Heywood proverbs days of the 1500s
Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. ~George Washington, farewell address, 1796
If you don't understand the cause of the problem — your solution will become part of it. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer, 2000s
Holding government accountable... is difficult without essential information, without the ability to assess official conduct. That is a key reason why government actions, in so far as is possible, should be transparent. ~Editors of Issues of Democracy: Accountability in Government, August 2000
No government, no matter how democratic or efficient, can long be effective if it is corrupt — if institutions or individuals lack integrity and are motivated by self-interest and private gain rather than public good. Jane S. Ley, deputy director for government relations and special projects at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, explores the vital issue of ethics in government. She discusses the legal framework that has evolved over the years to foster ethical conduct — dealing with such issues as codes of conduct, conflict of interest and financial disclosure. She concludes that the system in place, as elaborate as it now is, "will need to continue to adapt to new challenges." ~Editors of Issues of Democracy: Accountability in Government, August 2000
If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots. ~Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), attributed #Mexico #"Travel Ban"
Am I the only guy in our country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind.... I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution.... That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.... You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. ~Lee Iacocca, "Had Enough?", Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, 2007
Trump's brazen, repeated, and unapologetic lying on the campaign trail has already caused journalists to complain that fact checkers cannot keep up with the stream of lies. They saw the danger that fact checking his statements would become futile because the falsehoods would have become so common that they would soon be normalized. Beyond that, each and every preposterous statement is an explicit fight that Trump picks with the media in order to further polarize his supporters and render their cognitive bubble even more hermetic....
Aside from reinforcing the Trump base, the next four years of non-stop gaslighting could erode the basic standards of discourse in a healthy civil society. The truly horrible thing about propaganda in authoritarian regimes is not that it convinces the true believers, but that it demoralizes opponents by saying in effect: "Yes, we know that you know we are lying, but we don't care! We do it because we can and you can't stop us!" As for the majority of apolitical citizens, it infects them with a corrosive cynicism and dissuades them from all forms of public engagement. Apathy may be a more powerful silencer of dissent than overt physical coercion. ~Mike Lofgren, "Is Sean Spicer Gaslighting the Press?," WashingtonMonthly.com, 2017 January 22nd
The crux is not the publisher's freedom to print; it is rather, the citizen's right to know. ~Arthur Hays Sulzberger, 1956
With most people unbelief in one thing is founded upon blind belief in another. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, 18th century
There are natures so dogmatically stubborn that, if worlds were smashing together, and could be saved by their yielding a point, they would let them smash. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897
This is the true spirit of insolent dogmatism: We have proved to the satisfaction of every honest man, that we are right, and that you are wrong; and therefore, if you are not convinced, it must be owing to your own perversity. When a man's shot is exhausted, he will try to terrify his adversary by firing off powder. ~Julius Charles Hare, The Mission of the Comforter and Other Sermons, With Notes, 1846
Trump, Wall Street, Strive to Make Securities Fraud Great Again ~Susan Antilla, article headline, TheStreet.com, 2017 February 10th
How did corporations gain so much power with so little social accountability? ~Chuck Collins, "Ten Blockbuster Hearings," TheNation.com, 2007 January 4th
Corporations cause harm every day. Why do their harms go unchecked? How can they dictate what we produce, how we work, what we eat, drink, and breathe? How did a self-governing people let this come to pass? Corporations were not supposed to reign in the United States. ~Richard L. Grossman & Frank T. Adams, "Taking Care of Business: Citizenship and the Charter of Incorporation," 1993
I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Logan, 1816 November 12th, Virginia
Radical conservatives — Radcons, I call them — are taking over the public agenda, and they are meeting with woefully little resistance.... The Radcon agenda, undiluted and unopposed, is dramatically out of sync with the needs of America and the world. As such, it endangers our future.... They would rather police bedrooms than board rooms. ~Robert B. Reich, Introduction, Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, 2004
The world, Donald Trump wants you to know, is "a horrible mess." Fear has always been an effective form of political rhetoric, and one deployed to great effect by countless presidents.... And no President has weaponized fear quite like Trump. He is an expert at playing to the public's phobias. The America rendered in his speeches and tweets is a dystopian hellscape. He shapes public opinion by emphasizing dangers—both real and imaginary—that his policies purport to fix.... Even Presidents who sometimes wielded fear as a weapon tended to encourage the public to face threats with resolve. Trump is different. His approach is to seed fear, not assuage it.... When he pumps alarm into the system, it lingers. ~Alex Altman, "No President Has Spread Fear Like Donald Trump," Time.com, 2017 February 9th
She was warned.... Nevertheless, she persisted.... The Senator will take her seat. ~Mitch McConnell and Steve Daines, 2017 February 7th, when Elizabeth Warren supposedly broke Senate Rule XIX #shepersisted [current events quote turned instantaneous hashtag and movement
Liberty is fragile and little things matter because they lead to big things. ~Evan McMullin, 2017 February 5th tweet
It is horrifying that we have to fight our own Government to save our environment. ~Ansel Adams, interview with David Sheff, March 1983
For two hundred years we've been conquering Nature. Now we're beating it to death. ~Tom McMillan, 1989
Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain's majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.
~George Carlin (1937–2008)
On some issues, I'm a staunch Conservative — like curtailing greenhouse gas emissions so that we can Conserve the environment. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014 December 11th tweet
Throw a few chairmen of the board in jail and you'll see pollution disappear quite rapidly. You'd also probably see some pretty drastic prison reforms. ~Fortney Stark Jr., speech, quoted in Time, 1971 May 3rd
Somebody has to teach Americans that we don't always have to have something newer, better every year. Or in the case of our upside-down economic system, every quarter.... Somewhere along the way we bought into this insane idea that everything always has to get bigger, especially sales. Having a really good year and then just repeating it — not good enough. In corporate America, the stock market is the tail that wags the dog. Growth, growth, holy growth, is the only thing that ever matters. Better than last quarter, beat expectations, eat more hamburgers... ~Bill Maher, "New Rule: Growth At Any Cost," Real Time (HBO), 2016 September 23rd
The trump of reform is sounding throughout the world for a revolution of all human affairs. This issue we cannot doubt; yet the cries are not without alarm. Already is the axe laid at the root of that spreading tree, whose trunk is idolatry, whose branches are covetousness, war, and slavery, whose blossom is concupiscence, whose fruit is hate. Planted by Beelzebub, it shall be rooted up. ~A. Bronson Alcott, "Orphic Sayings," in The Dial, January 1841
Burn, burn all the books which teach hatred! Exalt labor and love! Let us create rational human beings, capable of crushing under foot the futile magnificence of barbaric glories, and of resisting those blood ambitions of nationalism and imperialism which have crushed their brothers. ~Anatole France, 1919
Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. ~Charles de Gaulle, 1969
A nation like a tree does not thrive till it is engraffed with foreign stock. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1823 #immigrants
Our democracy needs a robust press to hold our leaders accountable and cover the important issues facing our communities. The First Amendment belongs to all of us. ~Freepress.net, 2000s
[M]en in power... courted some strong Party to carry them into office and they find they must court it still.... So that most nominal kings and presidents and governors are merely clerks of some real power which stands erect at their side and does its will by them. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, sermon, 1831
I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, 1841
This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. ~Theodore Roosevelt, 1912 June 17th speech
Evolution trumps revolution. Great changes are achieved incrementally, each step building naturally on the last. It is the folly of government to believe in the efficacy of great leaps — and its hubris the attempt to implement them. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer, 2000s
President Donald Trump's team made little effort to consult with federal agency lawyers or lawmakers as they churned out executive actions this week, stoking fears the White House is creating the appearance of real momentum with flawed orders that might be unworkable, unenforceable or even illegal....
The only other administration that began with such swift executive actions was Ronald Reagan's, said David Vladeck, a law professor at Georgetown University and a former official at the Federal Trade Commission. Those directives were more heavily vetted. "If you don't run these kinds of initiatives through the affected agencies, you're going to get something wrong," Vladeck said. "A government by edict is not a sustainable idea."
By contrast, the Obama White House ran executive orders through a painstaking weeks-long process of soliciting feedback from agencies and briefing lawmakers, according to a former official. Sometimes it even asked expert lawyers in the private sector to check its work. ~Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey, and Seung Min Kim, "Trump's flashy executive actions could run aground," POLITICO, 2017 January 25th [Of the most recent twelve presidents – since 1945 – executive order activity has varied widely. The most active was Harry Truman with an average of 117 orders issued per year in office, and the lowest has been Barack Obama with an average 35. Source: American Presidency Project by Woolley & Peters
I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8th in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. ~Bernie Sanders, July 2016 [Your words seem to hit even harder now, Senator. A motivation and warning then, prophecy in hindsight.
The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.... I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.... The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work. ~Stephen K. Bannon, chief strategist and senior counselor to Donald Trump, 2017 January 25th interview with The New York Times
Energy crisis? America could power itself entirely if it could harness the energy of all those dead presidents spinning in their graves. ~A joke of unknown origin that's been around for years, even before Dresden Codak (authors spinning converting "posthumous indignity into clean energy," 2010) and Zach Weinersmith (founding fathers spinning and powering the country "every time a right is violated or an illegal war is started or an unfair tax is levied," 2011); this particular wording is a 2016 November 13th tweet by Colm Tobin
A decision... may depend on its being accepted, or its not being reversed, by the Congress — for the President under our system is not empowered to remake the nation in his own image.... a President's authority is not as great as his responsibility... ~Theodore C. Sorensen, "The Outer Limits of Decision," Decision-Making in the White House: The Olive Branch or the Arrows, 1963
Before we engage ourselves, we must know what we are doing; and once we have engaged ourselves, we must prevail, or the impact will be catastrophic. ~Henry Kissinger, 1980
Without a central administrative focus, foreign policy turns into a series of unrelated decisions — crisis-oriented, ad hoc, and after-the-fact in nature. We become prisoners of events. ~Nelson Rockefeller, 1968 June 21st
[W]e must stop letting Republicans name themselves "pro-life" and Democrats as "pro-choice." It is a huge distortion.
In my world, you don't get to call yourself "pro-life" and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare.... You don't get to call yourself "pro-life" and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet.... You can call yourself a "pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative."
The term "pro-life" should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. ~Thomas L. Friedman, "Why I Am Pro-Life," October 2012, in The New York Times
Abolition of a woman's right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: a form of rape by the State. ~Edward Abbey, 1988
But the preservation of life seems to be rather a slogan than a genuine goal of the anti-abortion forces; what they want is control. Control over behavior: power over women. Women in the anti-choice movement want to share in male power over women, and do so by denying their own womanhood, their own rights and responsibilities.
We are not going back to the Dark Ages. We are not going to let anybody in this country have that kind of power over any girl or woman. There are great powers, outside the government and in it, trying to legislate the return of darkness. We are not great powers. But we are the light. Nobody can put us out. ~Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Princess," January 1982
Birth control reduces unwanted pregnancies. Fewer unwanted pregnancies reduces abortion. So if you really want to cut down on abortion, you should be making birth control more available, not less.
But of course, the Repressives know this. They're just doing what they always do in an election year: playing to their hard-core constituents by threatening to hurt a population that's already hurting and can't fight back, hoping the rest of us won't notice or won't care....
It still takes two to do the pregnancy tango, so instead of going after the women year after year, why not try, in alternating election cycles, going after the men?
Maybe some brave lawmaker could propose forced sterilization for any man who impregnates a woman while he's earning less than the federal poverty income guidelines, married or single....
How about this: They could threaten low-income women in years that end with 2 and 6, and men in years that end in 4 and 8. In years that end in 0, they could take a hard-earned rest.
So now it falls to the state Senate to stop this wrongheaded measure. Once again, I remind them that a woman's reproductive organs are not big enough to accommodate both ideology and gynecology. They're going to have to pick one, and it better not be health care. ~Sally Kalson, "Legislators insult our intelligence again," 2002 May 1st, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A free press was born when America was born. It was not handed down or inherited. The concept of press freedom was deliberately constructed by the framers of our Constitution to instill the spirit of independence as an absolute, crucial ingredient in the creation, existence and survival of a free society.... [A] strong, free country and a strong, free press are inseparable. ~Jerry W. Friedheim, 1986, Foreword, Speaking of a Free Press: 200 Years of Notable Quotations About Press Freedoms
America today is in danger. It faces the threat by a radical, authoritarian right wing that refers to itself as "conservative," as if it were preserving and promoting American values. In fact, it has been trampling on them. ~George Lakoff, Preface, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, 2006
Judge Bork is a fan of the framers, those increasingly popular guys who actually made up the Constitution, and whose intent has become a matter of great moment to some jurists. We have judges who talk about the framers as though they played squash with them regularly. It reminds you of the proprietary, slightly arrogant way in which born-again Christians talk about God. They know Him; you don't. ~Anna Quindlen, "Public & Private: Justice and Mercy," The New York Times, 1990 July 29th #aswritten
It is often easier to buy a gun than to vote. ~Lyndon B. Johnson, 1960
If we were really looking for a new direction, we'd not just change Congress, we'd have another Constitutional Convention, as Jefferson suggested we do. Jefferson said: "Let us provide in our Constitution for its revision... every 19 or 20 years... so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation." He himself was saying, "I'm a bright guy, but even I can't foresee the iPod." Or the assault rifle.
But that's Jefferson's phrase: periodical repairs. This thing needs periodical repairs, but it hasn't been in the shop for 219 years. Of course it's belching oil. Literally. And that's because one of the glaring flaws a Constitutional Convention might correct is something called corporate personhood, which means somewhere along the way, stupid or corrupted courts gave corporations all the rights of individuals, with none of the liability. If some person defecates on your lawn, we throw him in jail, but if a corporation does it, they get a tax break. Somehow "we the people" got to be defined as Halliburton. This thing needs to go in the shop!...
Listen to Jefferson — he was saying, "We're smart guys, we're not Nostradamus." We deal with things today no founding father could have imagined — the Internet, global warming. Toilet paper, instead of bark....
How about this: You can own any gun you want, as long as it works on technology developed before 1787. This is what conservatives call "original intent," you can look it up. By candlelight. ~Bill Maher, "A Re-Look-See at the Constitution," Boston Globe, 2006 November 17th
I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher... but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. ~William Lloyd Garrison, on the issue of slavery, 1831 #protests
I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. ~James Baldwin, 1952
Interested in politics, current events, *and* literature? Robin R. Bates writes wonderful short essays linking literature with modern life, on his blog Better Living Through Beowulf: How Great Literature Can Change Your Life. Here is a link to his posts about politics: betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com/tag/politics
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