Hubert H. Humphrey

Our organization had our all-team mid-year retreat today. We usually screen a documentary and have some discussion and reflection on the documentary and on service, have lunch, and then partake in a fun activity for the rest of the day.This year’s documentary,The Act of the Possiblewas on Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Humphrey’s name is one I’ve heard of before but never knew the full extent of his achievements and contributions to society. I learned a lot of history about Humphrey and it was a very worthwhile documentary to watch. Humphrey played a crucial role in forming the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party; Humphrey was Mayor of Minneapolis (1945); U.S. Senator (1948); Vice President under President Lyndon B. Johnson; champion of the Civil Rights Act; and think tank behind many of the initiatives associated with other presidents, e.g. the Peace Corps.

Below are my favorite quotes from the documentary:

“I have had many people ask me how I got interested in civil rights, and I said well it’s just because I am a person. I never ever heard a bigoted statement in our family. It’s really a fact that we were just brought up to respect people. My dad used to tell me that the lowliest man in town might be the man you need some day. He used to let me believe that people were basically good – and that you ought to look for the goodness in them.” – Hubert H. Humphrey, The Act of the Possible, 2010

“Government is the means by which all the people acting together, do for themselves those things that the people cannot do one by one. That is the great principle of government. The things that government must do have changed as human society has changed. But that principle remains the same.” – Hubert H. Humphrey, The Act of the Possible, 2010

“This country is based upon the concept of popular sovereignty. We the people – those are the three most important words in the lexicon of democracy. We the people establish and ordain this constitution – not the forefathers, not Hubert Humphrey, not Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan, or add the list of Democratic candidates. We the people establish this. Now that is the whole charter of our government – from there on out all the rest of it is detail. That preamble to the constitution is the most concise statement of public purpose and public policy that you could ever hope to read. Every single part of that preamble is an action part. The thrust of it is action, purpose, decision, drive. Take the word “form” – to form a more perfect union. That means you’ve got to work at it, you’ve got to lay it out, you’ve got to plan it, you’ve got to organize it. Form. “Establish justice.” It doesn’t just happen. You have to establish it – a body of law, a system. And then to “assure” domestic tranquilty. Domestic tranquility doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t mean domestic indifference, or apathy. It’s like the old Hebrew word “shalom” – a sense of harmony, a peace within harmony. But you’ve got to assure it, you’ve got to work at it, you’ve got to guarantee it, you have to protect it. And then it says to “provide” for the common defense. That means you may have to sacrifice for it. You have to give something, you provide for it. And “promote” the general welfare. You’ve got to get out and work at it, you have to conceive it, you have to sell it, you have to make it work, you have to administer. You promote it, and it says the “general” welfare too. And then “secure” the blessings of liberty. I think that preamble is such a powerful moving force or statement of policy, that we ought to remember what it says. And keep in mind that government is not to be indifferent to the injustices that afflict society. That government has a purpose – it is to build a society, a social structure, and to be just, to give you a degree of peace and security.” – Hubert H. Humphrey, The Act of the Possible, 2010


One thought on “Hubert H. Humphrey

  1. really? you didn’t get a chance to stop by the big room dedicated to him when we were there for the poverty conference? there’s this whole room full of his artifacts and pictures and articles! anyway – one of my personal role models growing up. I learned about him in middle school. he is one of the greatest statesmen of our state and in the history of America. when people talk about “grassroots” activism, that was born here, in MN and out of the type of liberals and progressives that came out of Humphrey’s time and activism. they were pioneers for civil rights. You should also look up ROY WILKINS, another pioneering civil rights leader of his same peerage. Also the namesake of the St. Paul new year location where they have the main stage/pageant, Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

    a Republican contemporary but pioneer of the same cloth is Harold Stassen, Minnesota governor and the US official who was sent to San Francisco to sign on behalf of the USA for the birth charter of what would be THE UNITED NATIONS. I know this because Harold graduated from Humboldt 🙂

    too bad you didn’t see the room dedicated to him at the Humphrey during the poverty conference! you should go back and check it out!

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