Graven in Our Minds: Memorable American Lines

Our newest President,  Barack Obama, has already been compared to several predecessors:  George Washington,  Andrew Jackson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  John F. Kennedy, and most often Abraham Lincoln.

President Obama’s gift for poetic and empowering rhetoric may result, in the annals of history, in his becoming not only comparable to some of our greatest Presidents but also perhaps as one of the most remembered because of his masterful use of the English language.

As Roger Simon cautions us, however, in his today’s (Wednesday’s) column, “Nobody remembers the words of failed administrations.  Great words are made immortal by great presidents.”

In his story also today about the inauguration and Mr. Obama’s nearly 20-minute speech,  AP writer Ted Anthony muses about the memorable phrases that have chronicled significant times and affected significant events in the “American story,”  not all by Presidents.  But isn’t Anthony’s list incomplete?  Here is the paragraph from his report:

          “The American story has taken myriad forms and worn many coats.  A shining city upon a hill.  We, the people. Manifest Destiny.  No more auction block. Huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Brother, can you spare a dime?  A date that will live in infamy.  The torch has been passed. Morning in America.  United we stand.  Yes, we can.”

I think I can add quite a few memorable phrases and  sentences to Mr. Anthony’s list:

Give me liberty or give me death. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Go West, young man, go West.  Government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not vanish from the earth. With malice toward none, with charity for all.  Land of the free and the home of the brave. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  Hitch your wagon to a star.  Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.  If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.   I hear American singing, the varied carols I hear.  It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.  Speak softly and carry a big stick. Ask what you can do for your country. I have a dream that one day my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. One giant leap for mankind.  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!

Please feel free to add one or more such adages, pleasantries, or “Great Truths” to this list.  Just make sure that are true to the American story as told so far.



2 Responses to “Graven in Our Minds: Memorable American Lines”

  1. pen Says:

    Sí se puede

    It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

    It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

    It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

    It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

    Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

  2. Forest Crump Says:

    No taxation without representation… The buck stops here. I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature. I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be. When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace. Jimi Hendrix

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