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The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

Wit + Wisdom from Hubert H. Humphrey

Hubert H. Humphrey was well-known as a vibrant orator and passionate speaker. Below are some of his most famous statements.

Hubert Humphrey on the shoulders of people for civil rights"We cannot use a double standard for measuring our own and other people's policies. Our demands for democratic practices in other lands will be no more effective than the guarantees of those practiced in our own country." 1948

"There are those who say to you -we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late. There are those who say -this issue of civil rights is an infringement on states rights. The time has arrived for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." 1948

"In this time of national crises...per haps we would do well to spend a few minutes in considering projects which grace and embellish the earth, instead of shaking it." 1962

"If I believe in something, I will fight for it, with all I have. But I do not demand all or nothing. I would rather get something than nothing." 1963

"The leadership for civil rights has to take place in the White House or it is going to take place in the streets." 1964

"This is the first generation in all of recorded history that can do something about the scourge of poverty. We have the means to do it. We can banish hunger from the face of the earth." 1965

"I am not here to judge whether people are locked in poverty because of themselves or because of the society in which they live. All I know is that they are there and we are trying to do something about it." 1966

"It is all too easy for a society to measure itself against some abstract philosophical principle or political slogan. But in the end, there must remain the question: What kind of life is one society providing to the people that live in it?" 1966

"There is a great deal of difference between living and surviving. You can survive in debauchery, even in sickness and despair. But you live with a spirit of vitality and a spirit of participation, of being wanted, and having something to contribute." 1966

"When we say, 'One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all', we are talking about all people. We either ought to believe it or quit saying it ." 1966

"What do we want for people? Human dignity, personal expression and fulfillment, justice, freedom." 1967

"Equality means equality for all— no exceptions, no 'yes, buts', no asterisked footnotes imposing limits." 1967

Hubert Humphrey with kids"Be clear where America stands. Human brotherhood and equal opportunity for every man, woman, and child, we are committed to it, in America and around the world." 1967

"I believe that each of us can make a difference. That what is wrong can be made right. That people possess the basic wisdom and goodness to govern themselves without conflict." 1968

"What you do, what each of us does, has an effect on the country, the state, the nation, and the world." 1968

"There is a lot of difference between failure and defeat. Failure is when you are defeated and neither learn nor contribute anything." 1970

"My philosophy has always been that benefits should percolate up rather than trickle down." 1971

"The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped." 1976

"You cannot tell a poor boy from a small country town on the plains of South Dakota who has had the opportunity to be a teacher, a mayor, a senator, and a vice president, that America is not a nation of promise." 1977

"The message of the United States is not nuclear power. The message of the United States is a spiritual message. It is the message of human ideals; it is the message of human dignity; it is the message of the freedom of ideas, speech, press, the right to assemble, to worship, and the message of freedom of movement of people." 1977

"There is no such thing as an acceptable level of unemployment, because hunger is not acceptable, poverty is not acceptable, poor health is not acceptable, and a ruined life is not acceptable."

"In the minds and hearts of the American people, there is a great hunger for peace based on a universal recognition of the values of freedom and human dignity."

"I learned more about economics from one South Dakota dust storm than I did in all my years of college."

"The gap between the rich and the poor is the most dangerous threat to world peace we have."

"The road to freedom—here and everywhere on earth—begins in the classroom."

"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, debate and dissent."

"Peace is not passive, it is active. Peace is not appeasement, it is strength. Peace does happen. It requires work."

"You can always debate about what you should have done. The question is what are you going to do?"