In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century

Overview

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF EXTRAORDINARY SPEECHES, ONE TIMELESS COLLECTION.

In Our Own Words is a record of the most impassioned, inspirational, and infuriating orations ever given by Americans in this century. Featured here are the words of poets and politicians, artists and astronauts, scoundrels and sports heroes, Native Americans and Nobel laureates, soldiers and civil rights activists, humorists and hellraisers. The most comprehensive collection of American oratory ever ...

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Overview

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF EXTRAORDINARY SPEECHES, ONE TIMELESS COLLECTION.

In Our Own Words is a record of the most impassioned, inspirational, and infuriating orations ever given by Americans in this century. Featured here are the words of poets and politicians, artists and astronauts, scoundrels and sports heroes, Native Americans and Nobel laureates, soldiers and civil rights activists, humorists and hellraisers. The most comprehensive collection of American oratory ever assembled, In Our Own Words includes over 150 speeches, sermons, eulogies, radio broadcasts, courtroom pleas, fireside chats, public tributes, and commencement addresses.

Beginning on the eve of the twentieth century, this collection spans the Progressive Era, the Depression, two World Wars, the civil rights movement, McCarthyism, Vietnam, feminism, the Reagan years, and the technological revolution, bringing us right up to the threshold of the new millennium, The words of these men and women, known and unknown, challenged the conscience of this country, summoned the nation to wan brought down tyrants, paid homage to fallen heroes, gave a voice to the poor and oppressed, and energized the soul and spirit of America in its most desperate times.

To hear the voices of these extraordinary Americans once again or for the first time is to sit in the front row of the history of this century, decade by decade. We find both well-known and little-known speeches by the Roosevelts and the Kennedys, Mark Twain, General George S. Patton, Ronald Reagan, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, Billy Graham, Malcolm X, Clarence Darrow, Rachel Carson, Will Rogers, Betty Friedan, Orson Welles, Lou Gehrig, Jane Fonda, Carl Sagan, Jackie Robinson, Charlton Heston, Pearl Buck, Vince Lombardi, Elie Wiesel, and Duke Ellington. Over a hundred more visionaries and villains, leaders and preachers, radicals and revolutionaries tell the story of their age from their bully pulpits and convention halls, their soapboxes and podiums. These are the voices of our nation.

No other century could have produced such dramatic oratory.

No other collection could have captured it more powerfully.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Here is a uniquely textured, chronological collection of speeches delivered by Americans throughout the 20th century. Torricelli (senator, D-NJ) and Carroll (Letters of a Nation) have selected an unusual array of speeches by Americans like Helen Keller, Paul Robeson, and Jane Fonda. Of course, many of the major speeches in this anthology can be found in other sources--and the inclusion of a few "You Are There" radio commentaries is perplexing, since they are not properly speeches. Still, there is no comparable one-volume collection of 20th-century commentary that evokes such a diversity of viewpoints. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The last hundred years' worth of our most historical, powerful—and progressive—verbal addresses. The co-editors have very different qualifications. Senator Torricelli (D-N.J.) gives newsworthy speeches to congressional committees and the media, while Carroll has edited a similar centennial anthology, Letters of a Nation (1997, not reviewed). Arranged by decade, the collection features such early speakers as Teddy Roosevelt riding rough on Muck-Rakers, a Tammany Hall defense of "Honest Graft," W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington previewing Malcolm X ("revolution is hostile"), and the inimitable Mark Twain advising girls to smoke, drink, and marry "in moderation—[for instance,] only one cigar at a time." Humor is rare here, but the collection offers the drama of hearing both sides of the debates over Prohibition, the League of Nations, evolution in the schools, isolationism, McCarthyism, segregation, the success of the U.S.S.R., the Vietnam war (three to one against), the women's movement, rock lyric warnings, the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill brouhaha, and gun control. Despite the apparent symmetry, there's a plurality of voices for progressive, liberal, and even anarchist causes. Two Native Americans and several blacks denounce white racism; anarchist Emma Goldman derides patriotism; Helen Keller, Paul Robeson, and Jane Fonda laud Communism; a Berkeley student champions free speech; Cesar Chavez and others have a grape to pick with Labor; and we hear supporters of social spending, prison reform, abortion, AIDS victims, drug addicts, and sundry politically correct minorities. The eulogies for FDR and the Kennedys are apolitical, but Democrats are over-represented andRepublicans (from Goldwater to Nixon and Agnew) demonized. Ending the book with the eloquence of Edward R. Murrow (who's here), Tom Brokaw remarks on the century that "it is not enough to wire the world if you short-circuit the soul." For a progressive Democrat, the sound bites of the century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568362915
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 988,539
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

SENATOR ROBERT TORRICELLI is a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee, Judiciary Committee, Rules Committee, and Foreign Relations Committee. He writes all of his own speeches.

ANDREW CARROLL is the editor of the bestselling Letters of a Nation: A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters, and the founder of The Legacy Project, a national effort to seek out and preserve historically significant correspondence by Americans from all walks of life.

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Read an Excerpt




Excerpt


1900-1909


Tonight when the clock strikes twelve, the present century will have come to an end. We look back upon it as a cycle of time within which the achievements in science and in civilization are not less than marvelous. The advance of the human race during the past hundred years has not been equaled by the progress of man within any of the preceding ages. The possibilities of the future for mankind are the subjects of hope and imagination....

    On this occasion, which is one of solemnity, I express the earnest wish that the rights of the individual man shall continue to be regarded as sacred, and that the crowning glory of the coming century shall be the lifting up of the burdens of the poor, the annihilation of all misery and wrong, and that the peace and goodwill which the angels proclaimed shall rest on the contending nations as the snowflakes upon the land.

Randolph Guggenheimer
New York Board of Education
December 31, 1899


Don P. Halsey Extols the Virtues of Great Oratory.


"We frequently hear it said," Virginia State Senator Don P. Halsey ruefully observed, "that the age of great orators is past." But Halsey was unwilling to accept this, and, in a speech he gave throughout the late 1890s and early 1900s, he celebrated the enduring art of oratory and its enormous power to influence and inspire humanity.


Oratory is an abiding faculty in mankind, and the supply never greatly exceeds or falls short of the demand. It may just be at its ebb, but it hasbeen so a hundred times before. It has also been at the flood again as often, and so surely as prosperity always follows adversity, so truly will a temporary decadence be followed by a revival in oratory. History shows us that the great orators have appeared, and the great orations have been delivered, in the revolutionary periods. Great orators have always accompanied great epochs, and whenever there have been wrongs to right, whenever there has been truth to spread, whenever there has been the vital spark of independence to kindle into flames of mountain height, then there have been heard the voices of orators, clearing the way and blazing the path for the onward march of right and justice....

    As a matter of fact, the men who exercise the most influence today are not the millionaires of whom we hear so much—not the Rockefellers and Goulds and Morgans who dominate the realm of finance, not the mere money grubbers who inhabit the streets called Lombard and Wall. They have a large part in the world's affairs, it is true, but above and beyond them in influence and in power are the statesmen, the preachers, the thinkers, the philosophers, whose eloquence is molding public opinion—that great silent force which is under the world, and which is more powerful to move and uplift it than the lever of Archimedes. These are the men who are shaping the world's future history, and no greater instrumentality is at their command than the queenly art of oratory.

    No, my friends, there is no such thing as "decadence of oratory." There are as many great orators living today as have ever existed at any period of the world's history. They may not be known, having never had the opportunity or the occasion to show their powers, but they live, and the world will know it if the occasion arises. The art of oratory is not in decadence. It survives and will survive as long as time shall endure. Humanity does not change, and the influences which have acted upon it from the beginning will continue to act upon it to the end.

    This is not the first time that men have claimed oratory to be a thing of the past. As far back as the days of old Rome, Tacitus lamented that the great orators were all gone and that oratory had declined, and yet we have ever seen that, when occasion called it forth, it is followed in as pure and strong a stream as in the days of Cicero himself. Thus it will ever be. As our needs, so shall be our strength. And if ever the time shall come when oppression shall find a place in our land—when the rights of the people shall be trodden down, when patriotism shall need to be awakened to destroy tyrants, or when our social fabric shall become rotten and need renewal—then no one need ever fear that there will not arise great men who, by the power of oratory greater perhaps than the world has ever known before, will arouse the people to a sense of their dangers and lead the van in the upward march of civilization. Thus may it be.

    Through all the changes that are to come as "the great world goes spinning down the ringing grooves of change," may the time never come when the voices of orators shall be silenced in the councils of our people, or cease to mingle with the chime of the Sabbath bells when men are gathered together to worship God; but on, on to the time when the shining fabric of our universe shall crumble into unmeaning chaos and take itself where "oblivion broods and memory forgets"; on, on, until the darkness shall come down over all like "the pall of a past world," the stars wander darkling in eternal space, rayless and pathless, and the icy earth like a "lump of death," a "chaos of hard clay," wings "blind and blackening in the moonless air," may the power of oratory survive and wield its mighty influence, consecrated to the cause of liberty and truth, and pointing the way to where the Angel of Progress, leaning over the far horizon of the infinite future, beckons mankind forward and upward and onward forever.


* * *

Senator Albert J. Beveridge Defends America's Right to Subjugate
"Savage" Peoples and Foreign Governments
&
Senator George F. Hoar Denounces American "Imperialism."


Debate over American "imperialism" in 1902 grew so ferocious in the U.S. Congress that a fistfight broke out on the Senate floor. Senator Tillman (D—SC) slugged his colleague Senator McLaurin (D-SC) above the eye, and McLaurin responded by popping Tillman in the nose. At issue was America's annexation of the Philippines. After the U.S. Navy defeated the Spanish fleet in 1898, President William McKinley ordered Spain to evacuate Cuba and surrender the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States. Filipino natives rebelled, and American troops were sent in to suppress the insurrection. Senator Albert J. Beveridge (R-IN) traveled to the Philippines in 1899 and returned more determined than ever to promote the annexation of the country. On January 9, 1900, Beveridge stated his case in the Senate.


Mr. President, the times call for candor. The Philippines are ours forever—"territory belonging to the United States," as the Constitution calls them. And just beyond the Philippines are China's illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race: trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world. And we will move forward to our work, not howling our regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens, but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength, and thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world....

    Mr. President, self-government and internal development have been the dominant notes of our first century; administration and the development of other lands will be the dominant notes of our second century. And administration is as high and holy a function as self-government, just as the care of a trust estate is as sacred an obligation as the management of our own concerns. Cain was the first to violate the divine law of human society which makes of us our brother's keeper. And administration of good government is the first lesson in self-government, that exalted estate toward which all civilization tends.

    Administration of good government is not denial of liberty. For what is liberty? It is not savagery. It is not the exercise of individual will. It is not dictatorship. It involves government, but not necessarily self-government. It means law. First of all, it is a common rule of action, applying equally to all within its limits. Liberty means protection of property and life without price, free speech without intimidation, justice without purchase or delay, government without favor or favorites. What will best give all this to the people of the Philippines—American administration, developing them gradually toward self-government, or self-government by a people before they know what self-government means? ...

    Mr. President, this question is deeper than any question of party politics, deeper than any question of the isolated policy of our country even, deeper even than any question of constitutional power. It is elemental. It is racial. God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish systems where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. He has made us adept in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples. Were it not for such a force as this, the world would relapse into barbarism and night. And of all our race, He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to lead finally in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America, and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man. We are trustees of the world's progress, guardians of its righteous peace. The judgment of the Master is upon us: "Ye have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things."

    What shall history say of us? Shall it say that we renounced that holy trust, left the savage to his base condition, the wilderness to the reign of waste, deserted duty, abandoned glory, forgot our sordid profit even, because we feared our strength and read the charter of our powers with the doubter's eye and the quibbler's mind? Shall it say that, called by history's noblest work, we declined that great commission? Our fathers would not have had it so. No! They founded no paralytic government, incapable of the simplest acts of administration. They planted no sluggard people, passive while the world's work calls them. They established no reactionary nation. They unfurled no retreating flag....

    Pray God that spirit never fails. Pray God the time may never come when Mammon and the love of ease shall so debase our blood that we will fear to shed it for the flag and its imperial destiny. Pray God the time may never come when American heroism is but a legend like the story of the Cid, American faith in our mission and our right a dream dissolved, and the glory of our mighty race departed....


Senator George F. Hoar (R-MA) broke with his party to oppose American annexation of the Philippines and other territories. During a May 1902 debate on maintaining American troops in the Philippines, where they were increasingly coming under attack, Hoar gave the following speech in the Senate.


If a strong people try to govern a weak one against its will, the home government will get despotic, coo. You cannot maintain despotism in Asia and a republic in America. If you try to deprive even a savage or a barbarian of his just rights you can never do it without becoming a savage or a barbarian yourself.

    Gentlemen talk about sentimentalities, about idealism. They like practical statesmanship better. But, Mr. President, this whole debate for the last four years has been a debate between two kinds of sentimentality. There has been practical statesmanship in plenty on both sides. Your side has carried their sentimentalities and ideals out in your practical statesmanship. The other side has tried and begged to be allowed to carry theirs out in practical statesmanship also. On one side have been these sentimentalities. They were the ideals of the fathers of the Revolutionary time, and from their day down till the day of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Sumner was over. The sentimentalities were that all men in political right were created equal; that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed and are instituted to secure that equality; that every people—not every scattering neighborhood or settlement without organic life, not every portion of a people who may be temporarily discontented, but the political being that we call a people—has the right to institute a government for itself and to lay its foundation on such principles and organize its powers in such form as to it and not to any other people shall seem most likely to effect its safety and happiness. Now, a good deal of practical statesmanship has followed from these ideals and sentimentalities. They have built forty-five states on firm foundations. They have covered South America with republics. They have kept despotism out of the Western Hemisphere. They have made the United States the freest, strongest, richest of the nations of the world. They have made the word republic a name to conjure by the round world over. By virtue the American flag—beautiful as a flower to those who love it, terrible as a meteor to those who hate it—floats everywhere over peaceful seas and is welcomed everywhere in friendly ports as the emblem of peaceful supremacy and sovereignty in the commerce of the world....

    You also, my imperialistic friends, have had your ideals and your sentimentalities. One is that the flag shall never be hauled down where it has once floated. Another is that you will not talk or reason with a people with arms in their hands. Another is that sovereignty over an unwilling people may be bought with gold. And another is that sovereignty may be got by force of arms, as the booty of battle or the spoils of victory.

    What has been the practical statesmanship which comes from your ideals and your sentimentalities? You have wasted six hundred millions of treasure. You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives—the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit. You have established reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest, bringing their sheaves with them, in the shape of thousands of sick and wounded and insane to drag out their miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind. You make the American flag in the eyes of numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture. Your practical statesmanship, which disdains to take George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or the soldiers of the Revolution or of the Civil War as models, has looked in some cases to Spain for your example. I believe—nay, I know—that in general our officers and soldiers are humane. But in some cases they have carried on your warfare with a mixture of American ingenuity and Castilian cruelty.

    Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garment of the American and to welcome him as a liberator, who thronged after your men when they landed on those islands with benediction and gratitude, into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries cannot eradicate....


Forty-four years later, in 1946, the Philippines achieved independence.


* * *


Jane Addams Offers an Impassioned Tribute to George Washington

on the Anniversary of His Birthday.


The first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for peace, which she received in 1931, Jane Addams was best known for transforming an abandoned, run-down mansion in one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods into Hull House, a settlement home for the city's neediest. Addams was only twenty-nine when Hull House opened its doors in 1889, offering medical care, legal aid, educational programs, and other essential services. On February 23, 1903, the Union League Club of Chicago invited Addams to speak in honor of George Washington's birthday. Addams used the opportunity not only to celebrate Washington's extraordinary legacy, but also to encourage her audience to emulate the integrity of fit's character.


We meet together upon those birthdays of our great men not only to review their lives, but to revive and cherish our own patriotism. This matter is a difficult task. In the first place, we are prone to think that by merely reciting these great deeds we get a reflected glory, and that the future is secure to us because the past has been so fine. In the second place, we are apt to think that we inherit the fine qualities of those great men simply because we have had common descent and are living in the same territory.

    As for the latter, we know full well that the patriotism of common descent is the mere patriotism of the clan—the early patriotism of the tribe. We know that the possession of a like territory is merely an advance upon that, and that both of them are unworthy to be the patriotism of a great cosmopolitan nation, whose patriotism must be large enough to obliterate racial distinction and to forget that there are such things as surveyor's lines. Then when we come to the study of great men it is easy to think only of their great deeds, and not to think enough of their spirit. What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? Every time, if we think far enough, he is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.

    Let us assume for a moment that if we are going to make this day of advantage to us, we will have to appeal to the present as well as to the past. We will have to rouse our national consciences as well as our national pride, and we will all have to remember that it lies with the young people of this nation whether or not it is going to go on to a finish in any way worthy of its beginning.

    If we go back to George Washington, and ask what he would be doing were he bearing our burdens now and facing our problems at this moment, we would, of course, have to study his life bit by bit—his life as a soldier, as a statesman, and as a simple Virginia planter.

    First, as a soldier. What is it that we admire about the soldier? It certainly is not that he goes into battle. What we admire about the soldier is that he has the power of losing his own life for the life of a larger cause; that he holds his personal suffering of no account; that he flings down in the rage of battle his all and says, "I will stand or fall with this cause." That, it seems to me, is the glorious thing we most admire, and if we are going to preserve that same spirit of the soldier, we will have to found a similar spirit in the civil life of the people, the same pride in civil warfare, the spirit of courage, and the spirit of self-surrender which lies back of this.

    If we look out upon our national perspective, do we not see certainly one great menace which calls for patriotism? We see all around us a spirit of materialism—an undue emphasis put upon material possessions, an inordinate desire to win wealth, an inordinate desire to please those who are the possessors of wealth. Now, let us say, if we feel that this is a menace, that with all our power, with all the spirit of a soldier, we will arouse high-minded youth of this country against this spirit of materialism. We will say today that we will not count the opening of markets the one great field which our nation is concerned in, but that when our flag flies everywhere it shall fly for righteousness as well as for increased commercial prosperity; that we will see to it that no sin of commercial robbery shall be committed where it floats; that we shall see to it that nothing in our commercial history will not bear the most careful scrutiny and investigation; that we will restore a commercial life, however complicated, to such honor and simple honesty as George Washington expressed in his business dealings.

    Let us take, for a moment, George Washington as a statesman. What was it he did, during those days when they were framing a Constitution, when they were meeting together night after night, and trying to adjust the rights and privileges of every class in the community? What was it that sustained him during all those days, all those weeks, during all those months and years? It was the belief that they were founding a nation on the axiom that all men are created flee and equal. What would George Washington say if he found that, among us, there were causes constantly operating against that equality? If he knew that any child which is thrust prematurely into industry has no chance in life with children who are preserved from that pain and sorrow? If he knew that every insanitary street, and every insanitary house, cripples a man so that he has no health and no vigor with which to carry on his life labor? If he knew that all about us are forces making against skill, making against the best manhood and womanhood? What would he say? He would say that if the spirit of equality means anything, it means like opportunity, and if we once lose like opportunity we lose the only chance we have toward equality throughout the nation.

    Let us take George Washington as a citizen. What did he do when he retired from office, because he was afraid holding office any longer might bring a wrong to himself and harm to his beloved nation? We say that he went back to his plantation on the Potomac. What were his thoughts during the all too short days that he lived there? He thought of many possibilities, but, looking out over his country, did he fear that there should rise up a crowd of men who held office not for their country's good, but for their own good? Would he not have foreboded evil if he had known that among us were groups and hordes of professional politicians who, without any blinking or without any pretense that they did otherwise, apportioned the spoils of office, and considered an independent man as a mere intruder, as a mere outsider? If he had seen that the original meaning of office holding and the function of government had become indifferent to us, that we were not using our foresight and our conscience in order to find out this great wrong which was sapping the foundations of self-government? He would tell us that anything which makes for better civic service, which makes for a merit system, which makes for fitness for office, is the only thing which will tell against this wrong, and that this course is the wisest patriotism. What did he write in his last correspondence? He wrote that he felt very unhappy on the subject of slavery, that there was, to his mind, a great menace in the holding of slaves. We know that he neither bought nor sold slaves himself, and that he freed his own slaves in his will. That was a century ago. A man who a century ago could do that, would he, do you think, be indifferent now to the great questions of social maladjustment which we feel all around us? His letters breathe a yearning for a better condition for the slaves as the letters of all great men among us breathe a yearning for the better condition of the unskilled and underpaid. A wise patriotism, which will take hold of these questions by careful, legal enactment, by constant and vigorous enforcement, because of the belief that if the meanest man in the republic is deprived of his rights, then every man in the republic is deprived of his rights, is the only patriotism by which public-spirited men and women, with a thoroughly aroused conscience, can worthily serve this republic. Let us say again that the lessons of great men are lost unless they reinforce upon our minds the highest demands which we make upon ourselves; that they are lost unless they drive our sluggish wills forward in the direction of their highest ideals.


Tammany Hall Politician George Washington Plunkitt
Justifies "Honest Graft."


"The politician who steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool," George Washington Plunkitt famously remarked. "With the grand opportunities all around for a man with a political pull there's no excuse for stealin' a cent." Notoriously candid, Plunkitt was one of the most influential ward bosses in New York City's infamous Tammany Hall—a Democratic machine that virtually dominated city politics from the 1850s to the 1930s by doling out patronage jobs and contracts in return for votes, power, and money Plunkitt flaunted his ability to use the system for his personal gain and saw nothing wrong with what he called, as in the following 1905 address, "honest graft."


Everybody is talkin' these days about Tammany men growin' rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin' the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There's all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I've made a big fortune out of the game, and I'm gettin' richer every day, but I've not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin' gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, et cetera—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.

    There is an honest graft, and I'm an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin', "I seen nay opportunities and I took 'em."

    Just let me explain by examples. My party's in power in the city, and it's goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say, that they're going to lay out a new park at a certain place. I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before. Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course it is. Well, that's honest graft.

    Or supposin' it's a new bridge they're goin' to build. I get tipped off and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank. Wouldn't you? It's just like lookin' ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It's honest graft, and I'm lookin' for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I've got a good lot of it, too.

    I'll tell you of one case. They were goin' to fix up a big park, no matter where. I got on to it, and went lookin' about for land in that neighborhood. I could get nothin' at a bargain but a big piece of swamp, but I took it fast enough and held on to it. What turned out was just what I counted on. They couldn't make the park complete without Plunkitt's swamp, and they had to pay a good price for it. Anything dishonest in that?

    Up in the watershed I made some money, too. I bought up several bits of land there some years ago and made a pretty good guess that they would be bought up for water purposes later by the city.

    Somehow I always guessed about right, and shouldn't I enjoy the profit of my foresight? It was rather amusin' when the condemnation commissioners came along and found piece after piece of the land in the name of George Plunkitt of the Fifteenth Assembly District, New York City. They wondered how I knew just what to buy. The answer is, I seen my opportunity and I took it....

    I've told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now, let me tell you that most politicians who are accused of robbin' the city get rich the same way. They didn't steal a dollar from the city treasury. They just seen their opportunities and took them. That is why, when a reform administration comes in and spends a half-million dollars in tryin' to find the public robberies they talked about in the campaign, they don't find them.

    The books are always all right. The money in the city treasury is all right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft. Now, let me tell you, that's never goin' to hurt Tammany with the people. Every good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn't isn't likely to be popular. If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I give it to a friend. Why shouldn't I do the same in public life?

    Another kind of honest graft: Tammany has raised a good many salaries. There was an awful howl by the reformers, but don't you know that Tammany gains ten votes for every one it lost by salary raisin'? The Wall Street banker thinks it shameful to raise a department clerk's salary from $1,500 to $1,800 a year, but every man who draws a salary himself says, "That's all right. I wish it was me." And he feels very much like votin' the Tammany ticket on election day, just out of sympathy.

    Tammany was beat in 1901 because the people were deceived into believin' that it worked dishonest graft. They didn't draw a distinction between dishonest and honest graft, but they saw that some Tammany men grew rich and supposed they had been robbin' the city treasury or levyin' blackmail on disorderly houses, or workin' in with the gamblers and lawbreakers. As a matter of policy, if nothing else, why should the Tammany leaders go into such dirty business, when there is so much honest graft lyin' around when they are in power? Did you ever consider that?

    Now, in conclusion, I want to say that I don't own a dishonest dollar. If my worst enemy was given the job of writin' my epitaph when I'm gone, he couldn't do more than write:

    "George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Opportunities, and He Took 'Em."


Plunkitt's speech, far from endangering his position or reputation, seemed only to heighten his influence and appeal. He died in 1924 at the age of eighty-two, an esteemed and very wealthy man.

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Table of Contents


Contents

Foreword by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1900-1909

Don P. Halsey Extols the Virtues of Great Oratory

Senator Albert J. Beveridge Defends America's Right to Subjugate "Savage" Peoples and Foreign Governments

Senator George F. Hoar Denounces American "Imperialism"

Jane Addams Offers an Impassioned Tribute to George Washington on the Anniversary of His Birthday

Tammany Hall Politician George Washington Plunkitt justifies "Honest Graft"

President Theodore Roosevelt Condemns the "Muckrakers" Who Smear and Slander Honest Men

The Reverend Dr. Donald Sage Mackay Addresses the Question "Does God Care?" After an Earthquake Destroys San Francisco

W. E. B. Du Bois Issues a Call to Arms to His Fellow African Americans in the "Battle for Humanity"

Booker T. Washington Warns Against Confrontational Actions That May Do More Harm than Good

Mark Twain Speaks to Misses Tewksbury's School for Girls on Smoking, Drinking, and Lying

Ida B. Wells-Barnett Calls Attention to the Epidemic of Lynchings and "Mob Murder" in America

Chief Plenty Coup Confers with His Tribal Council on Achieving Peace Between the Great Tribes of the United States

The Reverend Reverdy Ransom on "White Supremacy" and an Upcoming Boxing Match Between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries

1910-1919

Anarchist Emma Goldman Derides Patriotism as a "Menace to Liberty"

Union Activist Rose Schneiderman on the Deaths of 146 Workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Mrs. D. H. Bishop Offers a Harrowing Eyewitness Account of the Titanic's Last Hours

Henry Ford Describes the Bonus He Has Provided His Workers and Its Intended Effects on Their Private Lives

President Woodrow Wilson Requests a Declaration of War Against Germany

Carrie Chapman Catt Urges the U. S. Congress to Make One "Last, Hard Fight" for Suffrage

President Woodrow Wilson Enumerates the "Fourteen Points" That Will Ensure World Peace and "Justice to All Peoples and Nationalities"

Ambassador James W. Gerard Encourages German Americans to Be Loyal to the United States -- or Else

Socialist Leader Eugene V. Debs Defends Himself in Court Against Charges of "Disloyalty" and "Sedition"

The Reverend Dr. Anna Howard Shaw Beseeches Americans to Accept President Wilson's Proposal for a "League of Nations"

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Rejects the League and Its "Mongrel Banner"

New York Governor Alfred E. Smith Assails the "Contemptible" Publishing Tycoon William Randolph Hearst

1920-1929

Evangelical Preacher Billy Sunday Excoriates Alcohol as "God's Worst Enemy"

Will Rogers Skewers Both the "Wets" and the "Drys" in the Prohibition Debate

Attorney Edward Prindeville Demands Imprisonment for Eight Chicago White Sox Players Who Intentionally Lost the 1919 World Series

Helen Keller Emphatically Endorses Communism and the Russian Revolution

Margaret Sanger Promotes Birth Control as an "Ethical Necessity for Humanity"

President Warren G. Harding Marvels at the "Majesty" of Yellowstone National Park

Black Leader Marcus Garvey Finds Common Ground with the Ku Klux Klan

Maud Ballington Booth Expresses Her Belief That No Prisoner Is "Beyond Hope"

Defense Attorney Clarence Darrow Implores the Court to Spare the Lives of Two Young Murderers

William Jennings Bryan Scoffs at Darwin's Theory of Evolution

Defense Attorney Dudley Field Malone Argues That Both "Theology and Science" Should Be Taught in Public Schools

Nicola Sacco, Before His Execution, Restates His Innocence

Al "Scarface" Capone Bids Farewell to Chicago and Laments Being Unappreciated for Showing Citizens a "Good Time"

Republican Presidential Candidate Herbert Hoover Predicts the "Abolition of Poverty" in the United States

1930-1939

Oscar Ameringer Describes Intolerable Suffering Throughout the United States as a Result of the Great Depression

justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, on His Ninetieth Birthday, Offers Profound Advice on Life and Death

Notre Dame President the Reverend Father Charles L. O'Donnell Eulogizes the Legendary Football Coach Knute Rockne

Walter W. Waters, Leader of the "Bonus Expeditionary Forces," Rallies Americans Against President Herbert Hoover

Newly Elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt Gives Inspiration and Courage to a Nation Overwhelmed by Poverty and Anxiety

Joseph Strauss, Engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, Celebrates the Bridge as a Symbol of "New Hopes and New Aspirations"

Mary McLeod Bethune Commemorates the Sacrifices and Achievements of African American Women Over the Past 100 Years

Populist Senator Huey P. Long Advances His "Share Our Wealth" Plan to Make "Every Man a King"

Radio Broadcaster Herb Morrison Reports Live as the Hindenburg Explodes and Crashes to the Ground

Union Leader John L. Lewis Excoriates Big Business for Its "Brutality and Oppression" Against Organized Labor

Orson Welles Tries to Assure Terrified Listeners That They Are Not Being Attacked by Martians

Baseball Great Lou Gehrig, Suffering from a Fatal Disease, Thanks His Fans and Considers Himself the "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth"

1940-1949

CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow Describes Nazi Air Attacks on the City of London

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Tries to Convince a Skeptical Nation

Why It Must Defend the World Against Nazism

Legendary Composer Duke Ellington Exalts the Artistic, Intellectual, and Spiritual Contributions Made by African Americans

Famed Pilot Charles Lindbergh Argues That the United States Would

Meet with "Defeat and Failure" Against the German Army

journalist Dorothy Thompson Imagines the Horror of a World Controlled by Adolf Hitler

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Requests from Congress a Declaration of War Against Japan

Nobel Laureate Pearl Buck Contends That to Defeat Fascism Abroad, Americans Must Fight for Equality at Home

General Dwight D. Eisenhower Drafts a Message of Apology for His Failure at D-Day

General Eisenhower Issues His "Order of the Day" to the Men Who

Will Storm the Beaches of Normandy

General George S. Patton Tells His Troops That War Is the "Most

Magnificent Competition in Which a Human Being Can Indulge"

President Harry S. Truman Addresses a Nation Grief-Stricken by the

Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Truman Announces That an Atomic Bomb-the Largest

Bomb Ever Used in the History of Warfare-Has Been Dropped on Japan

General Douglas MacArthur Offers Words of Peace After Japan Signs the Official Declaration of Surrender

J. Robert Oppenheimer, Creator of the Atomic Bomb, Beseeches His Colleagues Not to Forget Morality in Their Pursuit of Science

Robert H. Jackson Demands a Verdict of Guilty for the Nazi Leaders on Trial at Nuremberg

Holocaust Survivor Hadassah Rosensaft Describes the Day She Was Liberated from a Nazi Extermination Camp

Zionist Leader Abba Hillel Silver Implores the United Nations to Authorize the Creation of a Homeland for Jews in Palestine

Secretary of State George Marshall Announces a Plan to Save War-Ravaged Europe from Descending into "Chaos"

World-Renowned Performer Paul Robeson Adamantly Defends His Love for the Soviet Union and Its Government

Major-League Baseball Player Jackie Robinson Appears Before the House Un-American Activities Committee to Comment on Robeson's Remarks

1950-1959

Senator Joseph McCarthy Launches a "Final, All-Out Battle" Against Communist Sympathizers in the United States

Senator Margaret Chase Smith Warns Against Those Who Use "Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear [Tactics]" for Political Gain

Nobel Laureate William Faulkner Expresses His Heartfelt Belief That "Man Will Not Merely Endure: He Will Prevail"

President Harry S. Truman Defends Sending Troops to Korea and Firing General Douglas MacArthur

General MacArthur Explains His Actions in the Korean War and Refutes Charges of Being a "Warmonger"

Democratic Governor Adlai Stevenson Reminds Members of His Party of All That They Have Accomplished in the Past Twenty Years

Vice Presidential Candidate Richard M. Nixon Confronts Allegations That He Used Campaign Funds for His Personal Gain

John W. Davis Contends That "Separate but Equal" Is a Matter for the Legislature, Not the Courts, to Decide

NAACP Attorney Thurgood Marshall Argues That "Separate but Equal" Schools and Other Institutions Are Unconstitutional

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt Addresses the Question: "Hasn't the United Nations Failed?"

Environmentalist Rachel Carson Muses on the "Exceeding Beauty of the Earth" and Its Effect on the Human Spirit

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright Encourages His Students to Create Buildings That Are "Beneficial to Humankind"

Homer Hickam Relates How Sputnik Inspired Him to Become a Rocket Engineer for NASA

Jack Kerouac, in a Rare Public Appearance, Describes What the "Beat Generation" Is -- and Is Not

Poet Carl Sandburg, Before a joint Session of Congress, Honors Abraham Lincoln on the 150th Anniversary of His Birth

Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi Orders His Players to "Make Any Sacrifice to Win"

1960-1969

Dwight D. Eisenhower Ends His Presidency with a Heartfelt Message of Peace and a Warning About the Growing "Military Establishment" in America

President John F. Kennedy Summons the Nation and the World to join Together in the Fight Against "Tyranny, Poverty, Disease, and War"

President John F. Kennedy Informs Americans of the Installation of Nuclear Missiles in Cuba -- a "Reckless and Provocative Threat to World Peace"

Alabama Governor George Wallace Promises His State: "Segregation Now! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!"

Standing in Front of the Berlin Wall, President John F. Kennedy Reminds the World of the "Failures of Communism"

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Electrifies a Nation with His Call for an End to Segregation and Racial Discrimination

Dr. King Eulogizes Four Little Black Girls Murdered by the Ku Klux Klan

Malcolm X Scoffs at Dr. King's Pacifism, Declaring: "There's No Such Thing as a Nonviolent Revolution"

President John F. Kennedy Pays Tribute to the Poet Robert Frost and All of America's Writers and Artists

Cardinal Richard Cushing Offers a Final Prayer for President John F. Kennedy, Slain by an Assassin's Bullet

President Lyndon Johnson Orders "Air Action" Against North Vietnam After U.S. Destroyers Are Attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin

Senator Barry Goldwater Exclaims at the 1964 Republican Convention That "Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice"

Berkeley University Student Mario Savio Criticizes the School Adrministration's Attempts to Stifle Free Speech

President Lyndon Johnson Envisions Transforming America into a "Great Society" Free of Poverty, Crime, and Racism

President Johnson Makes an Impassioned Plea to Congress to Pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover Explains Why Only "Clean Cut" Men (and No "Beatniks") Can Serve in the FBI

President Lyndon Johnson Outlines the "First Steps" to Limiting the War in Vietnam and Makes a Stunning Personal Announcement to the American People

Labor Leader Cesar Chavez, Recovering from a Three-Week Fast, Explains to His Followers Why "Sacrifice" Is Integral to Their Struggle

Robert F. Kennedy Calms a Mostly Black Crowd of 1,000 After Informing Them That Martin Luther King Jr. Has just Been Assassinated

Two Months Later, Robert F. Kennedy Is Killed by an Assassin's Bullet and Is Eulogized by His Younger Brother, Senator Ted Kennedy

Crew Members of the Apollo 8 Spacecraft Offer a Christmas Eve Message of Peace and Hope to a Nation Reeling from Social and Political Turmoil

Congresswoman Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm Demands That the United States Spends Its Resources on "People and Peace, Not Profits and War"

Wellesley Graduate Hillary Diane Rodham Defends Her Generation's Use of "Constructive Protest" to Create Social Change

Vice President Spiro Agnew Blasts the "Effete Corps of Impudent Snobs" and "Professional Anarchists" Who Oppose the War in Vietnam

Betty Friedan Explains Why the Feminist Movement Is Imperative Not Only for Women, But for Men As Well

1970-1979

Herbert L. Carter Describes in Graphic Detail His Eyewitness Account of the Atrocities Committed at My Lai

Twenty-eight-Year-Old Veteran and War Hero John Kerry Asks the U.S. Senate "Where Are the Leaders" to End This "Barbaric War" in Vietnam?

TV Reporter Dorothy Fuldheim, Who Covered the Kent State Shootings, Responds to Critics of Her "Pro-Student" Sympathies

Inmate L. D. Barkley Reads Aloud the Prisoners' Demands During a Hostage Crisis in New York State's Attica Prison

Twenty-five-Year-Old Attorney Sarah Weddington Argues Before the U.S. Supreme Court Why Abortions Should Be Legal Throughout America

Actress Jane Fonda Broadcasts Pro-Communist Radio Messages in Hanoi to Demoralize American Servicemen Fighting in Vietnam

President Richard M. Nixon Announces a Cease-Fire Between the U.S. Military and the North Vietnamese

Pat Simon, the Mother of a Young Soldier Killed in the Vietnam War, Asks That Amnesty Be Granted to All Draft Resisters

Representative Barbara Jordan Argues for the Impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon

President Nixon Bids an Emotional Farewell to His Staff

President Gerald R. Ford Explains His Motivations for Pardoning Richard M. Nixon

Astronomer Carl Sagan Discusses the Implications of Finding Life on Other Planets

The Message (Recorded by President Jimmy Carter) Enclosed in the Voyager I and Voyager II Spacecrafts

Native American Activist Leonard Peltier, on Trial for Murder, Denounces the judge as a "Member of the White Racist American Establishment"

Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer Reflects on the Role of Stories and Literature to "Uplift the Spirit"

Conservative Leader Phyllis Schlafly Denounces the Women's Movement as Incompatible with a "Successful Family Life and Motherhood"

President Jimmy Carter Addresses the "Crisis of Confidence" Affecting the "Heart and Soul and Spirit" of the Nation

1980-1989

Presidential Candidate Ronald Reagan Vows a "National Crusade to Make America Great Again"

Dr. Rayna Green, Cherokee, Offers a "Modest Proposal" for a "Museum of the Plains White Person"

UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick Excoriates the Soviet Union for Shooting Down a Passenger Plane, Killing Everyone On Board

Eleven-Year-Old "Ambassador of Peace" Samantha Smith Shares Her Vision of the Future

New York Governor Mario Cuomo Challenges President Reagan's Portrayal of America as a "Shining City on a Hill"

Susan Baker of the PMRC Recommends Putting Warning Labels on Records with "Sexually Explicit and Violent" Rock Lyrics

Musician Frank Zappa Dismisses the PMRC's Proposal as an "Ill-Conceived Piece of Nonsense"

Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Criticizes President Reagan at the White House for Planning to Visit a German Cemetery Where Nazi Officers Are Buried

President Ronald Reagan Honors the Memory of the Seven Astronauts Killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion

Corporate Raider Ivan Boesky Encourages Graduating Business Students to "Seek Wealth" in a "Virtuous and Honest Way"

An Unrepentent Oliver North Defends His Role in the Iran-Contra Scandal and Blames Congress for Its "Fickle, Vacillating" Foreign Policy

The Reverend Jesse Jackson Rallies All Americans-Particularly the Most Disadvantaged -- to "Keep Hope Alive!"

Ryan White Relates the Prejudices and Hatred He Has Endured Since Being Diagnosed with AIDS

Patricia Godley, a Former Drug Addict, Stands Before a Town Han Meeting on Drug Abuse and Implores: "Make Me Know I'm Worth Fighting For"

1990-1999

Student Dissident Shen Tong Offers a Firsthand Account of the Violent Crackdown in Tiananmen Square, China

President George Bush Announces the Allied Air Attack on Saddam Hussein's Forces in Iraq and Kuwait

Judge Clarence Thomas Vehemently Denies Charges of Sexual Harassment Made by Former Employee Anita Hill

Anita Hill Describes judge Thomas's Sexual Advances Toward Her in Lurid Detail

The Reverend Cecil L. Murray, During the L.A. Riots, Implores His Parishioners to Find Faith and Refrain from Violence

Senator Daniel Inouye Pays Tribute to the Courage and Patriotism of the Highly Decorated 442nd Regiment of Japanese American Soldiers

President Bill Clinton Addresses a Predominantly Black Church on What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Would Say If He Were Alive Today

Barbra Streisand Defends the Role of the Arts -- and Actors as Activists -- in American Society and Politics

The Reverend Billy Graham, After the Oklahoma City Bombing, Offers a Sermon on the "Mystery of Evil"

Elizabeth Birch Appeals to Members of the Christian Coalition to Find "Common Ground" with Gays and Lesbians

Defense Attorney Johnnie Cochran Enumerates the Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Must Be Found "Not Guilty"

Handgun Control Activist (and Registered Republican) Sarah Brady Speaks to the Democratic National Convention on Gun Violence in America

Famed Actor and NRA Leader Charlton Heston Lashes Out at Those Who Attempt to "Undermine the Second Amendment"

Bill Henderson Laments Society's Increasing Dependence on Computers and Technology

The Original Draft of President Bill Clinton's Apology to the American People for His "Improper Relationship" with Monica Lewinsky

The Speech He Ultimately Gave

Journalist Tom Brokaw Looks Back on the Triumphs and Turmoils of the Twentieth Century -- and Looks Ahead to the Challenges and

Possibilities of the Century to Come

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2000

    In our own words

    The twentieth century has been called the American Century. Not only has American economic and military might molded of the history century, but at its conclusion, American ideas of democracy and freedom dominate the political discourse of the globe. In Our Own Words by Senator Robert Torricelli is a remarkable anthology of 150 speeches, which captures the pulse of this tumultuous time. Some of these speeches created history, others reflect the temper of the time, but all are engrossing; giving body to the American idea, in triumph and tragedy, humor and sorrow. this book belongs in the library of any serious student of history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 1999

    Window of History

    Coming from a person that has an interest in American History but does not have the time or discipline to read a book on each historical event, this book is perfect. You don't have to read it all at once, just pick the topic that interests you at that moment and take a walk through time.

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