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Quotes of the day: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr

Published Wednesday, October 14, 2015 @ 3:10 PM EDT
Oct 14 2015

Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr. (born Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger; October 15, 1917 – February 28, 2007) was an American historian, social critic, and public intellectual, son of the influential historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. A specialist in American history, much of Schlesinger's work explored the history of 20th-century American liberalism. In particular, his work focused on leaders such as Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. In the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns he was a primary speechwriter and adviser to Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson II. Schlesinger served as special assistant and "court historian" to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. He wrote a detailed account of the Kennedy Administration, from the 1960 presidential campaign to the president's state funeral, titled A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


All wars are popular for the first 30 days.

Almost all important questions are important precisely because they are not susceptible to quantitative answer.

Clarity in language depends on clarity in thought.

Economists are about as useful as astrologers in predicting the future (and, like astrologers, they never let failure on one occasion diminish certitude on the next).

Expelled from individual consciousness by the rush of change, history finds its revenge by stamping the collective unconsciousness with habits and values.

For most Americans the Constitution had become a hazy document, cited like the Bible on ceremonial occasions but forgotten in the daily transactions of life.

History is, indeed, an argument without end.

Honest history is the weapon of freedom.

In view of the tide of religiosity engulfing a once secular republic it is refreshing to be reminded by Freethinkers that free thought and skepticism are robustly in the American tradition. After all the Founding Fathers began by omitting God from the American Constitution.

It is useful to remember that history is to the nation as memory is to the individual. As a person deprived of memory becomes disorientated and lost, not knowing where they have been or where they are going , so a nation denied a conception of the past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future.

Liberalism regards all absolutes with profound skepticism, including both moral imperatives and final solutions... Insistence upon any particular solution is the mark of an ideologue...

Man generally is entangled in insoluble problems; history is consequently a tragedy in which we are all involved, whose keynote is anxiety and frustration, not progress and fulfilment.

Politics in a democracy is, at the end, an educational process.

Problems will always torment us because all important problems are insoluble: that is why they are important. The good comes from the continuing struggle to try and solve them, not from the vain hope of their solution.

Righteousness is easy in retrospect.

Science and Technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.

Television has spread the habit of instant reaction and stimulated the hope of instant results.

The basic human rights documents-the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man-were written by political, not by religious, leaders.

The broad liberal objective is a balanced and flexible 'mixed economy,' thus seeking to occupy that middle ground between capitalism and socialism whose viability has so long been denied by both capitalists and socialists.

The genius of impeachment lay in the fact that it could punish the man without punishing the office.

The great appeal of fatalism is as a refuge from the terror of responsibility.

The military struggle may frankly be regarded for what it actually was, namely a war for independence, an armed attempt to imposethe views of the revolutionists upon the British government and large sections of the colonial population at whatever cost to freedom of opinion or the sanctity of life and property.

There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war.

Those who are convinced they have a monopoly on The Truth always feel that they are only saving the world when they slaughter the heretics.

Troubles impending always seem worse than troubles surmounted, but this does not prove that they really are.

Violence is fine against simple folk ten thousand miles away and shocking against injustice in our own land.

We are not going to achieve a new world order without paying for it in blood as well as in words and money.

What we need is a rebirth of satire, of dissent, of irreverence, of an uncompromising insistence that phoniness is phony and platitudes are platitudinous.


(October 15 is also the birthday of Friedrich Nietzsche, P.G. Wodehouse, and John Kenneth Galbraith.)

Categories: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, Quotes of the day


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