In honor of Presidents’ Day 2011: who said it?

In honor of Presidents’ Day 2011: who said it?

I have to admit, I have a little bit of a prejudice against Presidents’ (or President’s or Presidents) Day.

My birthday is February 12 (the same as Lincoln’s) which meant that I used to get a day off school when I was a kid…very handy for birthday parties.  ;)

Then California combined Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday into one holiday…and to keep us from ending up with something like forty more state holidays at some point, through in everybody else from Chester A. Arthur to Millard Fillmore.

I thought it would be fun today to look at what Presidents have said in the past.  I took State of the Union addresses (which were available for free online). 

It’s amazing how many of the same themes repeat (or appear to repeat…the language can sometimes apply to several different situations).

Just to make it fun, I’ll give you five quotations from five different State of the Union addresses…by five different Presidents.  Take a guess at the President…I’ll give you who said what at the bottom of the post.

Oh, and I’m obviously not endorsing any political point of view expressed in these quotations.  :)


“In dealing with both labor and capital, with the questions affecting both corporations and trades unions, there is one matter more important to remember than aught else, and that is the infinite harm done by preachers of mere discontent. These are the men who seek to excite a violent class hatred against all men of wealth. They seek to turn wise and proper movements for the better control of corporations and for doing away with the abuses connected with wealth, into a campaign of hysterical excitement and falsehood in which the aim is to inflame to madness the brutal passions of mankind. The sinister demagogs and foolish visionaries who are always eager to undertake such a campaign of destruction sometimes seek to associate themselves with those working for a genuine reform in governmental and social methods, and sometimes masquerade as such reformers. In reality they are the worst enemies of the cause they profess to advocate, just as the purveyors of sensational slander in newspaper or magazine are the worst enemies of all men who are engaged in an honest effort to better what is bad in our social and governmental conditions. To preach hatred of the rich man as such, to carry on a campaign of slander and invective against him, to seek to mislead and inflame to madness honest men whose lives are hard and who have not the kind of mental training which will permit them to appreciate the danger in the doctrines preached—all this is to commit a crime against the body politic and to be false to every worthy principle and tradition of American national life. Moreover, while such preaching and such agitation may give a livelihood and a certain notoriety to some of those who take part in it, and may result in the temporary political success of others, in the long run every such movement will either fail or else will provoke a violent reaction, which will itself result not merely in undoing the mischief wrought by the demagog and the agitator, but also in undoing the good that the honest reformer, the true upholder of popular rights, has painfully and laboriously achieved. Corruption is never so rife as in communities where the demagog and the agitator bear full sway, because in such communities all moral bands become loosened, and hysteria and sensationalism replace the spirit of sound judgment and fair dealing as between man and man. In sheer revolt against the squalid anarchy thus produced men are sure in the end to turn toward any leader who can restore order, and then their relief at being free from the intolerable burdens of class hatred, violence, and demagogy is such that they can not for some time be aroused to indignation against misdeeds by men of wealth; so that they permit a new growth of the very abuses which were in part responsible for the original outbreak. The one hope for success for our people lies in a resolute and fearless, but sane and cool-headed, advance along the path marked out last year by this very Congress. There must be a stern refusal to be misled into following either that base creature who appeals and panders to the lowest instincts and passions in order to arouse one set of Americans against their fellows, or that other creature, equally base but no baser, who in a spirit of greed, or to accumulate or add to an already huge fortune, seeks to exploit his fellow Americans with callous disregard to their welfare of soul and body. The man who debauches others in order to obtain a high office stands on an evil equality of corruption with the man who debauches others for financial profit; and when hatred is sown the crop which springs up can only be evil.”


“But our commitment to national safety is not a commitment to expand our military establishment indefinitely. We do not dismiss disarmament as merely an idle dream. For we believe that, in the end, it is the only way to assure the security of all without impairing the interests of any. Nor do we mistake honorable negotiation for appeasement. While we shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace.”


“It is a circumstance of sincere gratification to me that on meeting the great council of our nation I am able to announce to them on grounds of reasonable certainty that the wars and troubles which have for so many years afflicted our sister nations have at length come to an end, and that the communications of peace and commerce are once more opening among them. Whilst we devoutly return thanks to the beneficent Being who has been pleased to breathe into them the spirit of conciliation and forgiveness, we are bound with peculiar gratitude to be thankful to Him that our own peace has been preserved through so perilous a season, and ourselves permitted quietly to cultivate the earth and to practice and improve those arts which tend to increase our comforts. The assurances, indeed, of friendly disposition received from all the powers with whom we have principle relations had inspired a confidence that our peace with them would not have been disturbed. But a cessation of irregularities which had affected the commerce of neutral nations and of the irritations and injuries produced by them can not but add to this confidence, and strengthens at the same time the hope that wrongs committed on unoffending friends under a pressure of circumstances will now be reviewed with candor, and will be considered as founding just claims of retribution for the past and new assurance for the future.”


“Adequate accommodations for the great library, which is overgrowing the capacity of the rooms now occupied at the Capitol, should be provided without further delay. This invaluable collection of books, manuscripts, and illustrative art has grown to such proportions, in connection with the copyright system of the country, as to demand the prompt and careful attention of Congress to save it from injury in its present crowded and insufficient quarters. As this library is national in its character, and must from the nature of the case increase even more rapidly in the future than in the past, it can not be doubted that the people will sanction any wise expenditure to preserve it and to enlarge its usefulness.”


“For people in the entertainment industry in this country, we applaud your creativity and your worldwide success and we support your freedom of expression but you do have a responsibility to assess the impact of your work and to understand the damage that comes from the incessant, repetitive, mindless violence and irresponsible conduct that permeates our media all the time.”


#1: Theodore Roosevelt, 1906

#2: John F. Kennedy, 1963

#3: Thomas Jefferson, 1801

#4: Rutherford B. Hayes, 1878

#5: William J. Clinton, 1995

Happy Presidents’ Day!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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2 Responses to “In honor of Presidents’ Day 2011: who said it?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    This was interesting. As I read them, I tried to guess. #1 was the only one I got — primarily from the style of the language, and a bit of knowledge about trustbusting in TR’s time. #2 — I guessed Eisenhower — at least I was in the right era :). #3 — I was way off — I thought between WWI and WWII: Woodrow Wilson or FDR — off by about 120 years. #4 I guessed was about the Library of Congress, but really had no idea — who remembers anything about RB Hayes anyhow — not one of our most memorable POTUS’s. #5 — I guessed Reagan: close (in time), but no cigar. I wonder how professional historians would do? SOTU’s are in any event rarely memorable :-).

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Hey, I’m glad somebody enjoyed that…and gave it the thought you did.

      Teddy Roosevelt, who in the popular “cartoon” profile of him is more a man of action (“Bully!”), actually is quite quotable, in my opinion. I like that someone who clearly has more familiarity with the Presidents than the average person can be 120 years off…in a relatively young country like ours. I’m always intrigued by the confidence that people have that their era is doing brand new things no one else has ever done. I love that Sherlock Holmes is such a techie, for example. Reading the Autobiogaphy of Mark Twain definitely gives you parallels…including the way the media covers a “scandal”.

      I was looking for something literary, and was happy to have Hayes make a reference…because he’s obscure. ;) I only associate him with Reconstruction, I think.

      I’m guessing a Presidential historian would do okay…maybe four out of five. :) I think the average person on the street might have been hard-pressed to name all five of these Presidents…much less match the quotations…

      Thanks for sharing that!

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