March 2, 2015

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”



LINCOLN’S FAMOUS QUOTE AND ITS INSPIRATION:

We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
      
President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 
       The closing words of his Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863 (as recorded in
the “Hay Copy” of the speech stored at the Library of Congress, one of five written versions)
       As noted in The Quote Verifier and other sources, Lincoln’s phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is the best known use of the of/by/for the people formula, but Lincoln probably adapted his version from a similar phrase used in the 1850s by abolitionist preacher
Theodore Parker. During the early months of the Civil War, Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon gave the president a book of Parker’s sermons and speeches. It included a sermon titled “The Effect of Slavery on the American People,” which Parker delivered at the Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on July 4, 1858. In that sermon, Parker said: “Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.” According to Herndon, Lincoln marked those words in his copy before he wrote the Gettysburg Address. Parker had used a similar line in earlier sermons and speeches. For example, in a speech he gave in Boston on May 29, 1850, Parker defined democracy as “a government of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people.” However, the of/for/by the people formulation was not coined by Parker. Some older uses — and some later variations — are shown below.



DANIEL WEBSTER’S PRECURSOR:

“It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law.”
      
Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
       American lawyer, politician, orator and statesman
       Discussing the limitations of state’s rights and the supremacy of federal law in his
“Second Speech on Foote’s Resolution” in the U.S. Senate, on January 26, 1830.



AN IRONIC VARIATION BY LINCOLN’S DEBATE FOE:

“In my opinion this government of ours is founded on the white basis. It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men, in such a manner as they should determine.”
      
Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861)
       American Democratic politician; Congressman for Illinois from 1843 to 1847
       A line used, ironically, in one of his famed debates with Lincoln, on
July 9, 1858 in Chicago



OSCAR WILDE’S QUIP:

“All modes of government are failures. Despotism is unjust to everybody...Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and ochlocracies are unjust to the few. High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”
      
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
       Irish writer, poet and wit
       In his essay
“The Soul of Man under Socialism,” first published in the Fortnightly Review, February 1891



CHRISTOPHER MORLEY’S VERSION:

“America is still a government of the naive, for the naive, and by the naive. He who does not know this, nor relish it, has no inkling of the nature of his country.”
      
Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
       American journalist, novelist, essayist and poet
       In his book
Inward Ho! (1923)



LORD BUCKLEY’S HIPSTER VERSION:

“We here want it stuck up straight for all to dig that these departed studs shall not have split in vain; that this nation, under the great swingin’ Nazz, shall ring up a whopper of endless Mardi Gras, and that the Big Law of you straights, by you studs, and for you kitties, shall not be scratched from the big race.”
      
Lord Buckley (1906-1960)
       American entertainer known for telling stories using the hipster slang of black jazz musicians and beatniks 
       The quote above is from
Lord Buckley’s “hipster version” of the Gettysburg Address



BILL CLINTON’S GAFFE:

“The last time I checked, the Constitution said ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’  That’s what the Declaration of Independence says.” 
      
Bill Clinton 
       42nd President of the United States
       Comment made in remarks attacking conservative Republicans for being unreasonably anti-government, after his Second Presidential Debate with Sen. Robert Dole in October 1996. The statement generated news and snickers in the following weeks because Clinton was astoundingly wrong about the source. It comes from the Gettysburg Address and does not appear in either the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence. Time magazine listed this Clinton quote as one of the
“most embarrassing historical gaffes” of 1996.

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March 1, 2015

What “life is like” – from Forrest Gump and Leonard Nimoy to Tom Lehrer and Jawaharlal Nehru…


THE FAMOUS MOVIE QUOTE:

“My mama always said, life was like a box a chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
       Forrest Gump (actor Tom Hanks)
      
In the 1994 film Forrest Gump
       These lines are not in
the 1986 novel by Winston Groom that the film is based on. They are a more politically correct version of the opening lines of the novel, which are: Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you — it ain’t always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin life, so to speak.”


LEONARD NIMOY’S POIGNANT LAST TWEET:

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”   
       Leonard Nimoy
       American actor and author, especially known for his portrayal of the Vulcan character Spock in the Star Trek TV series and movies
       Nimoy posted these moving words on his popular Twitter feed the night of February 22, 2015. It was his last tweet. Early that morning he was rushed to the hospital. A few days later he died, at age 83, from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The letters “LLAP” at the end of the tweet were his shorthand initials for “Live long and prosper,” the popular catchphrase he used in many Star Trek episodes and films. Nimoy first spoke the line in the “Amok Time” episode of the original Star Trek series, aired on September 15, 1967, as Episode 1 of Season 2.


BILL MAHER’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Life is not like a box of chocolates. A box of chocolates is all good. I mean, it would be like a box of chocolates if there was a occasional turd.”  
       Bill Maher 
       American comedian and talk show host 
       A comment Maher made on an episode of his first major TV show
Politically Incorrect. (I watched that ep and wrote down the quip, but I forgot to note the date. The show originally aired from 1997 to 2002.)


THE WEREWOLF SUPERMODEL COUNTERQUOTE:

“Forrest Gump’s mother had a lot of catchy sayings. I never really understood any of them. Life is not like a box of chocolates. Life is more like a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of your favorite pair of shoes. The more you try to clean up the mess, the stickier it becomes.”  
      
Ronda Thompson (1955-2007) 
      
American novelist
       In her novel Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel (2007)


THE CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN’S RANT:

“Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup, or an English Toffee. But they’re gone too fast. The taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you’ve got left is a — is an empty box, filled with useless brown paper wrappers.”
       The “Cigarette Smoking Man”
       The X-Files character played by actor William B. Davis
      
In a 1996 episode of the The X-Files TV series


TOM LEHRER’S VARIATION:

Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”  
       Tom Lehrer
      
American songwriter and satirist 
       Part of his spoken introduction to the song “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” on the album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer (1953). The lyrics of the song include the line:
Life is like a sewer / And I'm trying to wade through her.”


NEHRU’S VARIATION:

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play it is free will.”
      
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
       Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964
       This popular quote appears to have first been attributed to Nehru by Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, in a 1967 issue of that venerable periodical.

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February 25, 2015

“I dream things that never were and say, why not?”


THE ORIGINAL LINES FROM A LITTLE KNOWN PLAY:

“You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”
      
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
       Familiar
lines from Part I of Shaw’s otherwise forgotten play Back to Methuselah (1921)
       These lines are said by The Serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden in the play, which is an amazingly odd science fiction fantasy that spans the ages from Adam and Eve to 31,000 A.D. and took three nights to perform in its entirety. Back to Methuselah was published in 1921 and first performed in 1922 at the Garrick Theatre in New York City.


AN INSPIRING POLITICAN’S MORE FAMOUS VERSION:

“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
      
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)
       American lawyer, politician and US Attorney General
       Lines frequently used by Kennedy at the close of his speeches
       Bobby Kennedy recited his version of what Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah so often that
many sources credit the words to him with no mention of Shaw, as if Kennedy coined the saying. Kennedy himself noted that he was quoting Shaw in his speeches, although his version was actually a paraphrase of Shaw, rather than an exact quote. (See, for example, Kennedy’s speech at the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968.)


THE CROOKED POLITICIAN PRINCIPLE:

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others see things that might be and ask: How much?” 
      
Carl Hiaasen
       American journalist and novelist
       From his
April 13, 1990 column in the Miami Herald, included in the book Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen (2001). This was Hiaasen’s commentary on revelations that the Mayor of Miami Beach had received payments from a corporation that wanted approval for a local beachfront construction project.


A TV LAWYER’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Some people see things as they are and ask why? Others see things as they never were and claim mad cow [disease].”
      
James Spader, as the character Alan Shore on the TV series Boston Legal
       A comment about our litigious society said to William Shatner (playing Shore’s law partner Denny Crane), in the
“Stick It” episode of Boston Legal (Season 2, Ep. 19; first aired on March 14, 2006)


GEORGE CARLIN’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.”
      
George Carlin (1937-2008)
       American comic genius
       Carlin used these lines in performances in the 1990s and included it in his book
Brain Droppings (1998). Contrary to what George would have wanted, it’s often quoted in censored form, without the word “shit.”


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February 18, 2015

“Hearts and minds” – from the Bible to Vietnam to the Middle East…


THE FAMOUS BIBLICAL QUOTE:

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” 
      
St. Paul 
       A famous line from his
Epistle to the Philippians, c. 62 A.D.  
       This Biblical verse from Philippians 4:7 helped popularize two famous phrases: “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” and “hearts and minds.”


JOHN ADAMS’ REVOLUTIONARY WAR QUOTE:

“The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”  
       John Adams 
       Second President of the United States
       From a letter he wrote to Hezekiah Niles, February 13, 1818


LBJ’S VIETNAM WAR QUOTE:

“We must be ready to fight in Vietnam, but the ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and the minds of the people who actually live out there.” 
     
Lyndon Baines Johnson
       36th President of the United States
       His famous (and infamous) “Hearts and Minds” speech (May 4, 1965)


THE GREEN BERETS’ VIETNAM WAR COUNTERQUOTE:

“If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” 
       U.S. Green Berets
slogan during the Vietnam War

 


AN IRAQ WAR VARIATION:

“What have you done to win Iraqi hearts and minds today?.” 
       Headline on posters that US General David Petraeus ordered to be posted in American military facilities in Iraq in 2003. The line reflected policies in the “Counterinsurgency Manual” he wrote,
which were supposed to help to gain Iraqi support for the continued US presence in their country and to reduce attacks on US troops by “insurgents.”
     
    


AN AFGHANISTAN WAR VARIATION:

“[General] Petraeus’s counterinsurgency manual, with all its talk of winning hearts and minds, is pure Vietnam.” 
      
Jonathan Schell (1924-2014)        
       American columnist and author
 
       In
a 2009 commentary in The Nation about the “counterinsurgency” policies created by Gen. Petraeus, which were then being applied in Afghanistan.     


PRESIDENT OBAMA’S QUOTE ABOUT ISLAMIC EXTREMISM:

“We know that military force alone cannot solve this problem…Our campaign to prevent people around the world from being radicalized to violence is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds.”
       Barack Obama
       44th President of the United States
       In an op-ed he wrote about the recent wave of killings by Islamic extremists, fist published in the L.A. Times on February 17, 2015


A RESPONSE TO OBAMA'S QUOTE:

“Anytime I see the ‘win their hearts and minds’ as the key driver of our warfare strategy I know we’re screwed.” 
       Reader comment posted on a PoliticalHotwire.com thread titled
“Obama administration solution to stop ISIS...get them jobs!”


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February 6, 2015

When the going gets tough, the quotes get weirder…



THE LEGENDARY SAYING:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
       Widely attributed to
Joseph P. Kennedy (1888-1969)
       American businessman and patriarch of the Kennedy clan
       Thousands of books and websites attribute this quote to Kennedy, though without any specific source. It has also been attributed to various other celebrities, such as football coach Vince Lombardi. My guess is that it’s a modern proverbial saying with no specific origin.



THE PANTLESS TOUGH GUY APPLICATION:

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH TAKE OFF THEIR PANTS.”
       Caption used for the photo at left when it was posted on the Feb. 2, 2015 “Day in Pictures” feature on the San Francisco Chronicle website. The rest of the caption explained:
“A competitor runs through a puddle in the ‘Tough Guy’ adventure race near Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, West Midlands. The event challenges thousands of tough guys to run through a grueling 200 obstacles, including water, fire and tunnels after a lengthy run at the start.”   
       (Photo: Oli Scarff, AFP/Getty Images)



THE UNREAL BLONDES VERSION:

“When Times Get Tough, the Tough Go Shopping.”
      
The Real Housewives of Orange County “reality” show
       Episode title, Season 5, Episode 1 (First aired November 5, 2009)



THE GONZO VERSION:

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
       Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
       American “gonzo” journalist
       In his book
Kingdom of Fear (2003)



LASORDA’S VARIATION:

“When the going gets easy, watch out! You may be going downhill.”
      
Tommy Lasorda (b. 1927)
       American baseball pitcher and manager
       In the book Life Lessons from Little League Revisited (2005) by Vincent Fortanasce & Tommy Lasorda



ANIMAL POLITICS VARIATION:

“When the waterhole gets smaller, the animals get meaner.” 
       African proverb

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