Curtis Dahlgren
"Proverbs set in order"; the cream of Reagan's crop
By Curtis Dahlgren
December 17, 2019

"I have no light to illuminate the pathway of the future save that which falls over my shoulder from the past." – Patrick Henry

"JUST AN ACTOR." That's what they called President Reagan. But he didn't just collect wisdom; he cultivated it. Not long before his birth's centennial, the Reagan Library found a box containing his secret notes and they were published in 2011 by Harper in "Ronald Reagan; the Notes" (Douglas Brinkley, editor). He started his collection when he was the spokesman for General Electric from 1954 to 1962. I've taken the liberty of choosing some of my favorites for a sort of book review:

"You who mortal cannot change the infallible unwritten laws of heaven. I would not from fear of any human edict, incur the God-inflicted penalty of disobeying divine law." – Antigone to the Legislature (Sophocles)

"Hold on to the constitution of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster; what has happened once in 6,000 years may never happen again." – Daniel Webster

"Those nations which have put liberty ahead of equality have ended up doing better by equality than those with the reverse principles." – Israeli scientist

"If we could effectively kill the national pride and patriotism of just one generation we will have won that country. Therefore there must be continued propaganda abroad to undermine the loyalty of the citizen in general and the teenagers in particular." – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

"The great affairs of life are not performed by physical strength or activity, or nimbleness of body, but by deliberation, character, expression of opinion. Of these old age is not only not deprived, but as a rule, has them in greater degree." – Cicero, 44 B.C.

"Out of the ghetto comes an Al Smith, Eddie Cantor, Sam Levinson, Joe Lous, Babe Ruth and a million others. They just couldn't understand that they didn't have a chance." – Henry Marshall

"State a moral case to a plowman and a professor. The farmer will decide it as well and often better because he has not been led astray by any artificial rules." – Thomas Jefferson

"The older education was a kind of propagation – men transmitted manhood to men – the new is merely propaganda." – C.S. Lewis

"Education which trains in skills but does not teach values is deficient. Its emphasis today all too often does not seek to make the individual a thinking person but seeks to condition him to the generally accepted view of the common good." – Alan Brownfield

"It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare." - Edmund Burke

"Woe to the country in which political hypocrisy first calls the people almighty, then teaches that the voice of the people is divine, then pretends to take a mere clamor for the true voice of the people, and lastly to get up the desired clamor." - Francis Lieber, 1859

"The worst wheel on the wagon makes the most noise." – unknown

"We shall banish want, we shall banish fear. The essence of National Socialism is human welfare rooted in a fuller life for every German from childhood to old age." – Adolph Hitler

"One way to distinguish truth from all its counterfeits is by its modesty: truth demands only to be heard among others while its counterfeits demand that others be silenced." – Sydney J. Harris

"We shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world." – John Winthrop, 1630

"How could it be otherwise in a body to which the people send 150 lawyers whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour." – Thomas Jefferson (regarding Congress)

"The greatest liar has his believers. If a lie be believed for only an hour it has done its work. Falsehood flies and truth comes limping after, so that when men come to be undeceived it is too late; the tale has had its effect." – anon.

P.S. The following are some more humorous lines, some of which are anonymous and some could be some of Reagan's originals.

"Their idea of fighting crime is longer suspended sentences."

"The simplest diet: If it tastes good, spit it out."

"Upper crust: A lot of old crumbs held together by dough."

"You know why it's called horse sense – they don't bet on people."

"Ask an atheist who's just had a great meal if he believes there's a cook."

"A protest march is like a tantrum only better organized."

"Breaking news: Someone broke into the Kremlin and stole next year's election results [Russia's election]."

PPS: Ronald Reagan was probably the greatest story teller before they invented Twitter, and the best since Abraham Lincoln. There is more to come, I have a feeling, but just one more for the time being:

"If you wrote to nine people today and each of them wrote to nine different people tomorrow and this continued for just 10 days, you'd reach 3,486,784,401 (that's billions, almost one-half of the population of the planet)."


© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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