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Quotations about the
United States of America

I am a melting pot… but I am more than a melting pot. I am a haven for the oppressed, a living adventure in brotherhood, a community of compassion, and a dynamic example of liberty under law, opportunity with responsibility, and democracy through equality. My name is America! ~William Arthur Ward (1921–1994)

This, then, is the state of the Union: Free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith. ~Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965

Ambition, enterprise, effort and success are largely states of mind; happiness is the United States. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor

Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

...let us neither express nor cherish any hard feelings toward any citizen who by his vote has differed with us. Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling. ~Abraham Lincoln, 1860

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

America is not a formula. America is not statistics... A great nation cannot be made, cannot be discovered, and then be laid coldly together like a census. America is a Tune. It must be sung together. ~Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds: A Moving-Picture of Democracy, 1913

May the growth of the American union never be prevented by party spirit. ~Every Body's Toast Book and Convivial Companion, by An Adept, 1851

Americans in unity, and unity in Americans! ~Every Body's Toast Book and Convivial Companion, by An Adept, 1851

Compared to England, America's a pimply teenager. ~Elementary, "Crowned Clown, Downtown Brown," 2017, written by Jordan Rosenberg  [S5, E12, Sherlock Holmes]

Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Poet"

Behold her stand, with power thunder-lipped,
And eagle-thoughts that soar above the storm...
Her voice like battle in a freedom song...
~Madison J. Cawein (1865–1914), "America"

May the glory of America never cease to shine. ~"Toasts and Sentiments," Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, compiled by Nugent Robinson, 1882

Our country will remain "the land of the free" only so long as it is "the home of the brave." ~Public Service Magazine, 1945

Thank God for life, for throbbing, pulsating life, for ability to appreciate the fact that we live in the most prosperous country in the world. ~Charles F. Raymond, Just Be Glad, 1907

How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy. ~Paul Sweeney, as quoted by The Reader's Digest

Miss Revendal asked—and I want to explain to her what America means to me.... When I am writing my American symphony, it seems like thunder crashing through a forest full of bird songs.... America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your fifty groups, with your fifty languages and histories, and your fifty blood hatreds and rivalries. But you won't be long like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you've come to—these are the fires of God. A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians—into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American.... the real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible, I tell you—he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming superman. Ah, what a glorious Finale for my symphony—if I can only write it. ~Israel Zangwill (1864–1926), The Melting-Pot, 1908

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. ~Adlai Stevenson, 1952

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... 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, 1952

      Ithamar Conkey:  It's the Know-Nothings. They might win. They have built a platform on populist economic rhetoric and anti-immigrant nativist anxiety. It's a heady brew. And noxious. But it's working. People are actually voting for these clowns. It turns out people like it when you tell them who to blame for their problems...
      Edward Dickinson:  I believe in this country, and I believe in the good guys. And at the end of the day, the good guys win because we love America. And when immigrants come here to join us, we throw our arms wide open and we say, "Welcome. Grab a seat. Eat a hot dog." We don't kick people out. No. And as far as these Know-Nothings go, it sounds to me like what they need to know something about is a little thing called patriotism. And generosity. And pride. ~Dickinson, "We lose – because we win," 2019, written by Robbie Macdonald and Alena Smith  [S1, E7; a little altered —tg]

Let America realize that self-scrutiny is not treason, self-examination is not disloyalty. ~Richard Cushing, 1965

America, bride of Change!...
I have heard thee sigh.
What if now
Thou failest, our saint, our star!
Between thy Father's tomb,
And the throne of the glittering world,
The febrile world,
Ah, Child! (have I lived too long?)
I have heard thee sigh.
~Louise Imogen Guiney, "To the Outbound Republic: MDCCCXCVIII"

Intellectually I know America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country. ~Sinclair Lewis, 1930

May Peace o'er America spread her wing,
And Commerce fill her ports with gold;
May Arts and Science comfort bring,
And Liberty, her sons enfold.
~Every Body's Toast Book and Convivial Companion, by An Adept, 1851  [This toast is earlier found "May peace o'er Britain spread her wing," in The Toastmaster: or, Treasury of Sentiment, London, 1836. —tg]

Life is good in America, but the good life still eludes us. Our standard of living is admittedly high, but measured by those things that truly distinguish a civilization, our living standards are hardly high at all. We have, I fear, confused power with greatness. ~Stewart Udall, 1965

Your flag and my flag—
And how it flies to-day!
In your land and my land,
And half the world away!
Rose-red and blood-red,
The stripes forever gleam;
Snow-white and soul-white—
The good forefathers' dream;
Sky-blue and true-blue, with stars to shine aright—
The gloried guidon of the day, a shelter through the night...
~Wilbur D. Nesbit, "Your Flag and My Flag," c.1905

The cement of this union is in the heart blood of every American. I do not believe there is on earth a government established on so immovable a basis. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter, 1815

With hearts and with glasses brim full,
Let's drink to America, our Mother.
~Every Body's Toast Book and Convivial Companion, by An Adept, 1851

Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country. ~Calvin Coolidge, 1923

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ~Declaration of Independence, United Colonies (United States of America), 1776

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.. ~Constitution of the United States of America, 1787

I... resolved to adopt the well Known Maxim “Where Liberty dwells, there is my country,” here every man who acknowledges the rights of a rational being, ought to bring his mite of Knowledge or experience, to encrease the rising Glory of this happy People. ~James Wallace, letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1803

That something has gone wrong in America most of us know. We are richer than any nation before us. We have more Things in our garages and kitchens and cellars than Louis Quatorze had in the whole of Versailles... We have wiped out many of the pests and scourges which afflicted humanity. We have advanced science to the edges of the inexplicable and hoisted technology to the sun itself... In brief, we are prosperous, lively, successful, inventive, diligent — but, nevertheless and notwithstanding, something is wrong and we know it. ~Archibald MacLeish, in LIFE, "Eloquent Guides to America's National Purpose," 1960

In short, at a time of universal social upheaval and challenge, our vision of our own society seems to be of limited social significance. An air of disengagement and disinterest hangs over the most powerful and affluent society the world has ever known. Neither the turbulence of the world abroad nor the fatness and flatness of the world at home is moving us to more vital effort. We seem becalmed in a season of storm, drifting through a century of mighty dreams and great achievements. As an American I am disturbed. ~Adlai Stevenson, in LIFE, "Eloquent Guides to America's National Purpose," 1960

...personal liberties — the most precious possession of all Americans... ~Franklin D. Roosevelt, fireside chat, 1938

For the world to follow, we must do more than rattle our sabers and demand allegiance to our vision simply because we believe we are right. We must provide a reason for others to aspire to that vision. And that reason must come with more than the repetition of a bumper-sticker phrase about freedom and democracy. It must come with more than the restatement of failed policy. It must come with the wisdom to admit when we are wrong and resolve to change course and get it right. ~Joseph R. Biden, Jr., 2008

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. ~John F. Kennedy, 1961

Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world, and the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy... We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps. But we have not done so. Instead, we have drifted, and that drifting has eroded our resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence. Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. And Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. We must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us. From our revolution, the Civil War, to the Great Depression to the civil rights movement, our people have always mustered the determination to construct from these crises the pillars of our history. Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my fellow citizens, this is our time. Let us embrace it. Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. ~William J. Clinton, First Inaugural Address, 1993

Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable! ~Daniel Webster

Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America, my fellow citizens — I do not say it in disparagement of any other great people — America is the only idealistic Nation in the world. ~Woodrow Wilson, 1919

May old England's sons, the Americans, never forget their mother. ~The Toastmaster: or, Treasury of Sentiment, London, 1836

America is called a republic, yet it is largely governed by lobby queens and railroad kings. ~Mary Wilson Little, Reveries of a Paragrapher, 1897

      As Americans, we feel that we've lost our way, that we don't know where we are going — if anywhere. I agree — but I still feel that the diagnosis is curious, for the fact is, of course, that we have a national purpose — the most precisely articulated national purpose in recorded history. Not only is it a famous statement of purpose: it is also an admirable statement of purpose. Prior to July 4, 1776, the national purpose of nations had been to dominate... The American national purpose was the opposite: to liberate from domination; to set men free. All men are created equal. All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
      We not only have a national purpose; we have one of such aspiration, such potentiality, such power of hope that we refer to it — or used to — as the American Dream. ~Archibald MacLeish, in LIFE, "Eloquent Guides to America's National Purpose," 1960  [a little altered —tg]

Don't listen to what anyone tells you about The States. Listen to this country. There was never anything like it. It's a complete break with everything that's gone before. It's a real pioneering into the future. The whole quarrel with it is precisely that it pioneers, that it doesn't remain quietly and properly at home in the past. The truth is, that we can have no standards by which to judge it. It can only be judged by its own standards, and it hasn't yet sufficiently become to be able to state its principles. That sentence itself reveals our inadequacy; in spite of all efforts, I can't speak of America in terms of America.... very possibly, it's exactly stability which America discards. Is it possible for a civilization to be wholly dynamic? Wholly a vibration, a becoming, a force existing in itself, without direction, without an object for its verb? ~Rose Wilder Lane, letter to Dorothy Thompson, 1928, edited by William V. Holtz  [a little altered —tg]

Fling high the banner to the breeze!...
      Free America!
Hail to thee, Union, firmly bound...
      Proud America!
Liberty to wrest from fate...
see the Eagle soaring
      O'er America!
Gracious Father, grant Thy blessing
      To America!
By birthright ours, or from afar,
Brethren, to our shores invited...
Round one common hearth united,
For one band of brothers lighted,
To one country we are plighted,
      One America!
~John Nollen, "A National Hymn," 1898

There are those, I know, who will reply that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American Dream. ~Archibald MacLeish, in LIFE, "Eloquent Guides to America's National Purpose," 1960

Of all the supervised conditions for life offered man, those under U S A's constitution have proved the best. Wherefore, be sure when you start modifying, corrupting or abrogating it. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Here, beyond anything else on the whole earth, is a country blessed by an ideal geography and almost perfect natural frontiers, by incalculable bulk and wealth and variety and vitality, by a unique and indeed unexampled heritage in democratic ideas and principles — and a country deliberately founded on a good idea. ~John Gunther, Inside U.S.A., 1946

      We believed then, and believe now, that we had a good government, worth fighting for, and, if need be, dying for. How many of our comrades of ten and fourteen years ago paid the latter price for our preserved Union! Let their heroism and sacrifices be ever green in our memory. Let not the results of their sacrifices be destroyed.
      Let us guard against every enemy threatening the perpetuity of free republican institutions. If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon's, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.
      The free public school is the promoter of that intelligence which is to preserve us as a free nation. Let us all labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press; pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion.
      Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar of money appropriated to their support shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate. ~Ulysses S. Grant, speech, 1875  [abridged —tg]

After all, territory is but the body of a nation. The people who inhabit its hills and its valleys are its soul, its spirit, its life. In them dwells its hope of immortality. Among them, if anywhere, are to be found its chief elements of destruction. ~James A. Garfield, speech, 1873

Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. ~Robert Orben, 1983

When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, "Ours." ~Vine Deloria, Jr.

Rachel: The pilgrims came here to escape persecution from the British.
Elizabeth: Yes, so they could go about persecuting the Indians.
~ER, "Great Expectations," original airdate 1999 November 25th, written by Michael Crichton and Jack Orman

The pilgrims were kicked out of England, quarreled with the Dutch, alienated the Indians, and had an evil reputation among the turkeys. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), tweet, 2008 November 24th

...we recognize the contributions made by Native Americans since long before our founding, and we resolve to continue the work of strengthening government-to-government ties with tribal nations and expanding possibility for all. Native Americans have helped make America what it is today. As we reflect on our history, we must acknowledge the unfortunate chapters of violence, discrimination, and deprivation that went on for far too long, as well as the effects of injustices that continue to be felt. While we cannot undo the pain and tragedy of the past, we can set out together to forge a brighter future of progress and hope across Indian Country and the entire American landscape. ~Barack Obama, "Presidential Proclamation — National Native American Heritage Month," 2015

People in power are trying to convince us that the villain in our American story is each other. But that is not our story. That is not who we are. That’s not our America. Our United States of America is not about us versus them. It’s about We the people! ~Kamala Harris, 2019

Obviously, what we need are critical lovers of America — patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it. ~Hubert H. Humphrey

It is on American soil that the highest destinies of civilization will be wrought out to their conclusions, and the record of what is there doing... will be always interesting and novel. Progress crawls in Europe, but gallops in America. ~Charles Mackay, "The Future of the United States," Life and Liberty in America, 1859

Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood — the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life. ~Theodore Roosevelt, letter, 1917

What, then, is the solution? Not to discover or rediscover our national purpose but to exercise it. Which means, ultimately, to exercise it for its own sake, not for the defeat of those who have a different purpose. ~Archibald MacLeish, in LIFE, "Eloquent Guides to America's National Purpose," 1960  [a little altered —tg]

      There is a very great thrill to be had from the memories of the American Revolution, but the American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation, and the duty laid upon us by that beginning is the duty of bringing the things then begun to a noble triumph of completion. For it seems to me that the peculiarity of patriotism in America is that it is not a mere sentiment. It is an active principle of conduct. It is something that was born into the world, not to please it but to regenerate it...
      The American Revolution was the birth of a nation; it was the creation of a great free republic based upon traditions of personal liberty which theretofore had been confined to a single little island, but which it was purposed should spread to all mankind. And the singular fascination of American history is that it has been a process of constant re-creation, of making over again in each generation the thing which was conceived at first. ~Woodrow Wilson, 1915

The United States is the only country with a known birthday. ~James Gillespie Blaine

America is a country that doesn't know where it is going but is determined to set a speed record getting there. ~Laurence J. Peter, Peter's Quotations: Ideas For Our Time, 1977

      We have been steadily pushing aside the great American tradition of friendliness and welcome to people of foreign birth. Once we owned that tradition and lived it. Now we own it as you might be said to own a discarded garment that is still in your closet, but that you no longer wear. Do you think of the American nation of being all the people? Or of catering only to those who had the luck to be born here?
      I stand, and shall always stand, that there are not lower and higher categories of American citizenship. The great tradition is an inclusive Americanism, not exclusive. America does not ask of a man where he was born nor any other extraneous question, but only whether he is dedicated to fighting for humanist values according to his best lights.
      There is not a birth-line cutting America in two... America is a passionate idea or it is nothing. America is a human brotherhood or it is a chaos. ~Max Lerner, "The United States as Exclusive Hotel," 1946  [a little altered —tg]

So it's home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.
~Henry Van Dyke, "America for Me," 1909

      It is the American flag. Just that and nothing more. No other adjective is ever prefixed to that word. It stands for the history of the United States and the traditions of our people... It is the flag just as much of the man who was naturalized yesterday as of the man whose people have been here generations... It means freedom of speech and freedom of thought... Look close upon it and you will see a great procession of men who have given all that life holds dearest that that flag might stand... They sacrificed everything that no star should be removed or diminished...
      They flag may call upon us again for protection, and when it does, the response will be the same; but bear in mind, that if the citizens protect the flag, the flag must protect the citizens. Wherever any American goes legally and observing the law, there the flag goes with him, and there it must ever go. We cannot afford as a nation to allow the humblest citizen among us to suffer in any way wrong or injustice...
      The flag stands for all that we hold dear, freedom, democracy, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. These are the great principles for which the flag stands... ~Henry Cabot Lodge, "What the Flag Means," in The World Court: A Magazine of International Progress, October 1915

America is not just a country, but a way of life. ~Anonymous Kansan, 1940

My god! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy. ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Monroe, 1785

"My Country 'tis of thee." It is difficult to say with any academical exactitude who was the original perpetrator of this ambrosial ambiguity, but if it was not Theobold the Thug as he bit his native sod in days of yore, then of a verity it was some patriotic patrician historically hysterical, or perchance a frenzied farmer paradoxically placing a monetary "monkey" on his broad acres to satisfy his narrow creditors; but whosoever unleashed this Utopian euphonism provided elocutionary evidence that, field of blood or field of spud, the spirit which has made the land fit for heroes and harrows has not come uncorked—the spirit which has produced the country where husbandmen—and bachelors too—have converted the open spaces to oaten places; the spirit which has moved them to wangle the mangel, capitalise the cow, and till the paddocks to pad the tills. ~Kenneth Alfred Evelyn Alexander (c.1890–1953), "Utopian Euphonisms," in The New Zealand Railways Magazine, 1930 January 1st  [Note: New Zealander author —tg]

No one’s going to take our democracy away from us, not now, not ever. America’s come too far. America’s fought too many battles. America’s endured too much to ever let that happen. ~Joseph R. Biden, Jr., 2020

America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and a moral fact — the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality. And we love it for this audacity! ~Adlai Stevenson, c.1963

...this country is bigger than Wall Street, and if they don't believe it, I show 'em the map. ~Will Rogers, 1929

...may the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own Country! ~Daniel Webster, 1832

I believe in America because in it we are free — free to choose our government, to speak our minds, to observe our different religions;
Because we are generous with our freedom — we share our rights with those who disagree with us;
Because we hate no people and covet no people's land;
Because we are blessed with a natural and varied abundance;
Because we set no limit to a man's achievement...
Because we have great dreams — and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true.
~Wendell L. Willkie, "Why I Believe in America," 1939

      We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, use the word "emoluments," etc., do hereby and forthwith set forth the document hereinafter referred to as the Constitution of the United States of America...
      Article V, Section 1: There shall be a National Anthem containing incomprehensible words and a high note that normal humans cannot hit without risk of hernia. ~Dave Barry, Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, 2001

The American — the greatest patriot on earth — rises gloriously to The Star-Spangled Banner — and then remembers he doesn't know the words. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1906, George Horace Lorimer, editor

It waves for you and it waves for me,
In all its splendid majesty:
This olden, golden flag that holds
Our hearts and faith within its folds,—
Long live the Stars and Stripes!
~W. Dayton Wegefarth (1885–1973), "Our Flag," Rainbow Verse: A Book of Helpful Sunny Philosophy, 1919

In light of the tensions among Western allies — the mightiest Democratic alliance is the union of 50 states. ~Walter Winchell, 1959

No matter where you are in North America, you are on indigenous land. ~Sean Sherman, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe, "The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I've Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday,", 2018

There is in this country unhappily and currently a strange, convoluted sense of morality, and a selective moral outrage that goes with it. ~Rod Serling, commencement address, Ithaca College, New York, 1972

American culture thrives on appearances, swallows the grit and beauty that lies under its glassy facades and spits out the remains in dilapidated, dirty dollar signs. ~Cecily Schmidt, "Common Threads," in Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture, edited by Chelsea Cain, 1999

An American has no sense of privacy. He does not know what it means. There is no such thing in the country. ~Bernard Shaw, "Political Madhouse in America and Nearer Home: A Lecture," 1933

It almost seems that nobody can hate America as much as can the Americans born here. America needs new immigrants to love and cherish it. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973

      What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends. Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don’t like it, and neither do I. What can we do?
      First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course... We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are the heirs of generations who survived threats much more powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now... We are at a turning point in our history...
      I do not promise a quick way out of our nation’s problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort... I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God’s help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail. ~Jimmy Carter, speech, 1979

America is the land of dreamers and doers, where the tomorrows give promise and strength to those who dare to look ahead, work and have faith. ~Rock Island Lines, 1945

What the American public doesn't know is what makes them the American public. ~Tommy Boy, movie, 1995, written by Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner

Despite the goings-on in Congress, I don't think the U.S. is bordering on madness. I think Canada and Mexico are. ~Robert Brault,, 2012

Blood is thicker than water, but there is a powerful lot of water between the United States and Great Britain. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1904, George Horace Lorimer, editor

We the people will not be silenced. We the people will not be bullied. We the people will not surrender. ~Joseph R. Biden, Jr., 2020

We need a type of patriotism that recognizes the virtues of those who are opposed to us. We must get away from the idea that America is to be the leader of the world in everything. The old "manifest destiny" idea ought to be modified so that each nation has the manifest destiny to do the best it can — and that without cant, without the assumption of self-righteousness, and with a desire to learn to the uttermost from other nations. ~Francis J. McConnell, Memorial Day Address, 1926

      The flag of the United States of America... that piece of red, white and blue bunting means five thousand years of struggle upward. It is the full-blown flower of ages of fighting for liberty. It is the century plant of human hope in bloom...
      Your flag stands for humanity, for an equal opportunity to all the sons of men. Of course, we haven't arrived yet at that goal; there are many injustices yet among us, many senseless and cruel customs of the past still clinging to us, but the only hope of righting the wrongs of men lies in the feeling produced in our bosoms by the sight of that flag.
      It stands for no race... It stands for men, men of any blood who will come and live with us under its protection. It is the only banner that means mankind...
      Other flags mean a glorious past, this flag a glorious future. It is not so much the flag of our fathers as it is the flag of our children, and of our children's children yet unborn. It is the flag of tomorrow. It is not the flag of your king, it is the flag of yourself and of all your neighbors...
      It has a power concealed in its folds and scatters abroad an influence from its flutterings. That power and influence mean that in due time, slowly and by force of law, yet surely as the footsteps of God, the last ancient fraud shall be smitten, the last unearned privilege removed, the last irregularity set right, the last man shall have a place to work and a living wage, the last woman shall have all her rights of person and of citizenship...
      Don't be ashamed when your throat chokes and the tears come, as you see it flying from the mast... You will never have a worthier emotion.
      That flag is the cream of all religions, the concentrated essence of the best impulses of the human race...
      By hundreds and by thousands the wretched victims of old-world caste are streaming westward, seeking here the thing that the flag stands for — opportunity...
      It waves defiance at all ghosts, they that have long intimidated men; the ghost of monarchy, the ghost of aristocracy, the ghost of war, the ghost of ecclesiastic rule...
      The Stars and Stripes have never stood for narrowness of race, nor pride of blood, but always and only for human rights... ~Frank Crane, c.1913  [a little altered —tg]

One of the generalities most often noted about Americans is that we are a restless, a dissatisfied, a searching people. We bridle and buck under failure, and we go mad with dissatisfaction in the face of success. We spend our time searching for security, and hate it when we get it. For the most part we are an intemperate people: we eat too much when we can, drink too much, indulge our senses too much... The result is that we seem to be in a state of turmoil all the time, both physically and mentally. ~John Steinbeck

There would be more miracles in America if the people were not in too great a hurry to wait. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

I just don't know why they're shooting at us. All we want to do is bring them democracy and white bread. Transplant the American dream. Freedom. Achievement. Hyperacidity. Affluence. Flatulence. Technology. Tension. The inalienable right to an early coronary sitting at your desk while plotting to stab your boss in the back. ~M*A*S*H, "O.R.," 1974, written by Larry Gelbart and Laurence Marks  [S3, E5, Hawkeye —tg]

Ten men in the country could buy the world and ten million can't buy enough to eat. ~Will Rogers

Foreigners still find us crude, but they keep importing our refined products. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

Our fathers' God, from out whose hand,
The centuries fall like grains of sand,
We meet to-day, united, free,
And loyal to our land and Thee,
To thank thee for the era done,
And trust Thee for the opening one.
~John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892), "Centennial Hymn," 1876, set to music by John K. Paine  [written for the opening of the International Exposition, Centennial Exhibition, Grandest World's Fair, U.S.A. Centennial, or however you know it as —tg]

It is still possible to have friendly discourse in America, as long as you don't bring up any subject. ~Robert Brault,

Some people say we are on the verge of the second Civil War. And it may be so. But even on the darkest days, cheerfulness kept breaking in. ~Alistair Cooke, 1968

We must remember... that we cannot insulate our children from the uncertainties of the world in which we live or from the impact of the problems which confront us all. What we can do — and what we must do — is to equip them to meet these problems, to do their part in the total effort, and to build up those inner resources of character which are the main strength of the American people. ~Harry S. Truman, speech, 1950

America My Country:  last nation on earth to abolish human slavery; first of all nations to drop the nuclear bomb on our fellow human beings. ~Edward Abbey, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, 1989

It is verified that the Liberty Bell cracked on July 8, 1835. It is probably that the warranty ran out on July 7, 1835. ~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984

Our Constitution was founded on a dark yet realistic view of human nature: that we are fallen, frail, and fallible. The aim of the new republic was not perfection, an impossibility on this side of Paradise, but, as Gouverneur Morris put it in the preamble to the Constitution, a Union that would prove "more perfect." Experience teaches us that injustice is endemic to political life. "The tragedy of man" the twentieth-century Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr observed, "is that he can conceive self-perfection but cannot achieve it." And the tragedy of America is that we can imagine justice but cannot finally realize it. ~Jon Meacham, His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, 2020,  ["...we live in a fallen, frail, and fallible world..." ~Jon Meacham —tg]

America enters the nightmare of its destiny like a demented giant in a half-cracked canoe, bleeding from wounds top and bottom, bellowing in bewilderment, drowning with radio transmitters on the hip and radar in his ear. He has a fearful disease, this giant.... Greed. Vanity.... The Faustian necessity to amass all knowledge, to enslave nature.... Arrogance. ~Norman Mailer, "Mr. Mailer Interviews Himself," in The New York Times Book Review, 1967 September 17th

In schools they have what they call intelligence tests. Well if nations held 'em I don't believe we would be what you would call a favorite to win it. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)

International trade note: the American is a gentle guy; but don't pressure him; if you do he turns toad and squirts poison. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Americans would much rather be diddled to death than educated or informed. ~Rod Serling, 1974

      When the smoke of countless factories shall darken the air in districts where the primeval forest yet stands, will the United States be able to solve the great problems of government which have puzzled sages and philosophers, kings and statesmen, students and men of business since the world began? And will they secure, as they grow older and more thickly peopled, that which all governments profess to desire — the greatest happiness of the greatest number? Or will the increase of population lead to difficulties? And will those difficulties — aided by time and aggravated by circumstances — become so irreconcilable as to dissever the glorious fabric of America? Beware the deluge that is to burst over their earth in a hundred years...
      But the real dangers of the Union do not spring from the inelasticity of the Constitution or from the quarrels of the North and South, or from any domestic question likely to arise, so much as they do from lust of territory on the one part, and from political and social corruption on the other. The greatest danger is the growth of corruption, and the decay of public virtue. A republic is, theoretically, the purest and most perfect form of government, but it requires eminently pure men to work it.
      In the memorable words of President James Buchanan: "In the last age, although our fathers, like ourselves, were divided into political parties which often had severe conflicts with each other, yet we never heard until within a recent period of the employment of money to carry elections. Should this practice increase until the voters and their representatives in the state and national Legislatures shall become infected, the fountain of free government will be poisoned at its source... A democratic republic, all agree, can not long survive unless sustained by public virtue. When this is corrupted, and the people become venal, there is a canker at the root of the tree of liberty which will cause it to wither and to die." ~Charles Mackay, "The Future of the United States," Life and Liberty in America, 1859  [modified —tg]

The United States of America may be but the first step in a great progression, of which the next may be the "United Republics of America." Why not? Is not the prospective unwieldiness of the Union a reason why it may be expected to break up into compartments a little more manageable, and resolve itself into at least three or four federations instead of one? A binary, trinary, or quadrinary system of republics? The time may come when the New England States may seek to effect a legislative union with Canada; when New York and the Middle and Western States may form another constellation of republics; and when the South may defy the North; and when California and the other commonwealths on the Pacific sea-board, from mere considerations of distance and locality, may set up in business for themselves. ~Charles Mackay, "The Future of the United States," Life and Liberty in America, 1859  [modified —tg]

I left Earth after that meeting of 2012 and didn't go back for a spell — which saved me much unpleasantness, I shouldn't complain.... when a fruit is ripe, it will fall, and the United States was rotten ripe. ~Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long, 1973

...a disgrace to America, — supposing Americans capable of feeling disgraced by their own conduct, which I doubt... ~Mary Hunter Austin, The Land of Journeys' Ending, 1924

What will future historians say of America? Perhaps that it never existed except in the legends of its founders, the ideals of its heroes and the dreams of its immigrants. ~Robert Brault,

Off with your hat as the flag goes by!
And let the heart have its say;
You're man enough for a tear in your eye
That you will not wipe away...
~H. C. Bunner, "The Old Flag," Airs from Arcady and Elsewhere, 1884

Somehow, we've let the universe in. All societies have been snug little houses, with wall-board walls painted with pictures of infinity — neat, logical, hand-made pictures on walls erected to keep out the unbearable chaos of reality. But America hasn't any walls. That, it seems to me, is the first thing to try to understand about this country; that there aren't any walls anymore. It's one explanation of the passion of the Fundamentalists, in every field of thought, not only religious. A desperate attempt to keep hold of sanity by maintaining the walls. No good: those walls come down on every side. Chaos is in. Can human beings live in reality? We've always thought not. We've never been able to bear it. ~Rose Wilder Lane, letter to Dorothy Thompson, 1928, edited by William V. Holtz  [a little altered —tg]

Americans are the most inarticulate, illiterate people I've ever met, totally unlettered in the language of the heart, totally distrustful of whatever cannot be touched. ~James Baldwin

America is often said to be a nation of intellectual superficiality, where mental cake eaters religiously consume what some obliging person with a knife has cut into standardized pieces. ~George Humphrey, "What Is Radio Doing to Us?," in Collier's, 1924

America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people. ~Gloria Steinem

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN:  I believe that if we are to form a new country, we cannot be a country that appears war-hungry and violent to the rest of the world. However, we also cannot be a country that appears weak and unwilling to fight, to the rest of the world. So, what if we form a country that appears to want both.
THOMAS JEFFERSON:  Yes, yes of course, we go to war and protest going to war at the same time...
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN:  And that means that as a nation, we could go to war with whomever we wished, but at the same time act like we didn't want to. If we allow the people to protest what the government does, then the country will be forever blameless.
JOHN ADAMS:  It's like having your cake and eating it too.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Think of it: an entire nation founded on saying one thing and doing another.
JOHN HANCOCK:  And we will call that country the United States of America.
~South Park, "I'm a Little Bit Country" 2003, written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone  [S7, E4]

What does it mean when a nation comes to believe that the end justifies the means? It means the end. ~Robert Brault,, 2019

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published 1998 Mar 18
revised 2014, 2020, 2021
last saved 2024 Jun 12