Inspirational Quotations by Adlai Stevenson (#670)

Inspirational Quotations by Adlai Stevenson Today marks the birthday of Adlai Stevenson II (1900–1965,) American politician and diplomat. Stevenson is renowned for his intellectual disposition, organizational skills, eloquent public speaking, and for advancing liberal ideologies within the Democratic Party.

Stevenson is also remembered for his significant landslide losses to popular war hero Dwight Eisenhower during both the 1952 and the 1956 presidential elections. Prior to the 1960 presidential election, Stevenson lost to Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy as the Democratic Party’s candidate. When Kennedy became President, Stevenson served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations until his death in 1965.

The 1949 “Cat Bill” in Illinois

When Stevenson was Governor of Illinois, the state legislature (supported by a committed group of bird-lovers) passed a bill protecting birds from their predators—notably cats—and declaring that cats roaming unescorted were a public nuisance. Stevenson felt the legislation was an absurd excuse to exterminate cats and have law enforcement deal with felines. He vetoed the bill with the following message:

I cannot agree that it should be the declared public policy of Illinois that a cat visiting a neighbor’s yard or crossing the highways is a public nuisance. It is in the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming. … Also consider the owner’s dilemma: To escort a cat abroad on a leash is against the nature of the cat, and to permit it to venture forth for exercise unattended into a night of new dangers is against the nature of the owner.

We are all interested in protecting certain varieties of birds. That cats destroy some birds, I well know, but I believe this legislation would further but little the worthy cause to which its proponents give such unselfish effort. The problem of cat versus bird is as old as time. If we attempt to resolve it by legislation who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, or even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.

What do I believe? As an American I believe in generosity, in liberty, in the rights of man. These are social and political faiths that are part of me, as they are, I suppose, part of all of us. Such beliefs are easy to express. But part of me too is my relation to all life, my religion. And this is not so easy to talk about. Religious experience is highly intimate and, for me, ready words are not at hand.
Adlai Stevenson

What a man knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty is for the most part incommunicable.
Adlai Stevenson

Power corrupts, but lack of power corrupts absolutely.
Adlai Stevenson

In youth, everything seems possible; but we reach a point in the middle years when we realize that we are never going to reach all the shining goals we had set for ourselves. And in the end, most of us reconcile ourselves, with what grace we can, to living with our ulcers and arthritis, our sense of partial failure, our less-than-ideal families—and even our politicians!
Adlai Stevenson

The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions.
Adlai Stevenson

Freedom is not an ideal, it is not even a protection, if it means nothing more than freedom to stagnate, to live without dreams, to have no greater aim than a second car and another television set.
Adlai Stevenson

Laws are never as effective as habits.
Adlai Stevenson

Peace is the one condition of survival in this nuclear age.
Adlai Stevenson

She would rather light candles than curse the darkness and her glow has warmed the world.
Adlai Stevenson

We have confused the free with the free and easy.
Adlai Stevenson

For my part I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance.
Adlai Stevenson

Our strength lies, not alone in our proving grounds and our stockpiles, but in our ideals, our goals, and their universal appeal to all men who are struggling to breathe free.
Adlai Stevenson

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
Adlai Stevenson

If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain.
Adlai Stevenson

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