The Moral Test of Government

“[T]he moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” —Hubert H. Humphrey

Other quotes from Humphrey:

“The road to freedom — here and everywhere on earth — begins in the classroom.”

“Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, debate and dissent.”

“Life’s unfairness is not irrevocable; we can help balance the scales for others, if not always for ourselves.”

“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”

“I am not here to judge whether people are locked in poverty because of themselves or because of the society in which they live. All I know is that they are there and we are trying to do something about it.”

“Each child is an adventure into a better life – an opportunity to change the old pattern and make it new.”

“I have seen in the Halls of Congress more idealism, more humanness, more compassion, more profiles of courage than in any other institution that I have ever known.”

“You cannot tell a poor boy from a small country town on the plains of South Dakota who has had the opportunity to be a teacher, a mayor, a senator, and a vice president, that America is not a nation of promise.”

“I learned more about the economy from one South Dakota dust storm that I did in all my years of college.”

“”There is no such thing as an acceptable level of unemployment, because hunger is not acceptable, poverty is not acceptable, poor health is not acceptable, and a ruined life is not acceptable.”

“The gap between the rich and the poor is the most dangerous threat to world peace we have.”

“It is not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.”

“Never give up on anybody.”

“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.”

“There are not enough jails, not enough police, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people. ”

“There are those who say to you – we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late.”

“To err is human. To blame someone else is politics.”


Yep, that’s me as a gawky nerd of a teen with Hubert Humphrey in the 1970s. I was attending Washington Workshops. The week was my first introduction to national politics up close. Humphrey was vice president of the United States under Lyndon Johnson (1964-68), the Democratic nominee for president in 1968, a senator from Minnesota, one of the country’s visionaries on on the ability of government to transform people’s lives for the better, and a courageous proponent of civil rights from 1948 forward. Click on the link to learn more about this remarkable man.


Here’s another gawky teen shot: Me, my cousins Phil and Molly Secrest with Frances Humphrey Howard, Hubert’s sister, in a hospital room (hence, she’s wearing a bathrobe) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She looked and sounded just like Hubert. At first I thought she WAS Hubert with a wig on. I later learned that she was an amazing person in her own right. Click on her name for a slide show of her life, and to learn more about her.


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