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Political Conventions - Pirates and Thieves

Political Conventions - Pirates and Thieves

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Published by Allan Bonner

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Published by: Allan Bonner on Jan 24, 2012
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01/24/2012

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P
IRATES AND
T
HIEVES
123
Pirates and Thieves
Good artists borrow and great artists steal.Shakespeare’history plays are right out of Holinshead’s chronicles,but that doesn’t diminish his greatness.He decided what to take and did it so effectively that the material was there-after known as his.Early in your candidacy is a good time to decide what concepts to steal.
The generation of pols reading this book know John Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your coun-try” from memory or from David Letterman’s comedy routine “GreatMoments in Presidential Speeches.” What may not immediately cometo mind is the next sentence: “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the free-dom of man.”I suspect speechwriter Theodore Sorensen knew that this theme hadpermeated political speeches for 50 years and political thought and writing for decades before that.Eighteenth-century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau said“As soon as any man says of the affairs of state, ‘What does it matter tome?’ the state may be given up as lost.”The Mayor of Haverhill, Massachusetts said in a eulogy, “Here may webe reminded that man is most honored, not by that which a city may do for him, but by that which he has done for the city.” Supreme CourtJustice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1884 stated: “It is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of ournational life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has doneforeach of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country inreturn.Guy Emerson in
The New Frontier:a Study of the American Liberal Spirit 
italicized this quote late in the book: “men and women are bornto put more into their country than they take out of it.”Even JFK had used a version of the phrase before. At the DemocraticNational Convention, he defined his “New Frontier” by saying “It sumsup not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intendtoask of them.” On September 5, 1960, in Detroit, he said “The New 
 
Frontier is not what I promise I am going to do for you. The New Frontier is what I ask you to do for your country.”In American political life, it was reformer Teddy Roosevelt who putthese ideas on the table in 1910: “O my fellow citizens, each of youcarries on your shoulders not only the burden of doing well for thesake of your country, but the burden of doing well and of seeing thatthis nation does well for the sake of mankind.” Not content with that,he emphasized a few paragraphs later that “Equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highestservice of which he is capable.” Warren Harding edited and polished the lines for the 1920 campaign:“If we can prove a representative popular government under whichacitizenship seeks what it may do for the government and country rather than what the country may do for individuals...” But Harding  was also calling for isolationism and limited government, not theactivism of Kennedy.In 1928 Herbert Hoover foreshadowed the second aspect of the JFK inaugural quote when he spoke of an individual’s “opportunity forgreater and greater service, not alone from man to man in our ownland, but from our country to the whole world.”Then, in 1932, FDR reworked the thought into this: “The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women willhave to serve some system of government or economics, or whether asystem of government and economics exists to serve individual menand women.”FDR may also have provided JFK with the template for his Berlinspeech 30 years later. Kennedy said:There are many people in the world who really don’t understand,or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free worldand the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There aresome who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let themcome to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and else- where we can work with the Communists. Let them come toBerlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true thatcommunism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economicprogress... Let them come to Berlin.The construction closely resembles that of FDR’s “New Deal” speechin1932:Go into the home of the business man. He knows what the tariff has done for him. Go into the home of the factory worker. Heknows why goods do not move. Go into the home of the farmer.Heknows how the tariff has helped to ruin him.
124 P
IRATES AND
T
HIEVES

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