Paul Newman, Ralph Bellamy & Dore Schary

Tribute to Adlai Stevenson at the Democratic National Convention

delivered 28 August 1968, Chicago, Illinois


Paul Newman: We think you are very wise to come here for your deliberations in this fateful year of grace. For it was in Chicago that the modern democratic story began. It was here twenty years ago in the depths of a shattering national misery, at the end of a dizzy decade of Republican rule, that you commenced the greatest era of economic and social progress in our history with the nomination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Years during which we fought total depression to victory and we have never been more prosperous. Years during which we fought total war to victory both east and west and launched the United Nations, history's most ambitious experiment in international security.

But our Republican friends say that it was all a miserable failure. For almost a week pompous phrases marched over this landscape in search of an idea. And the only idea they found was that the greatest decades of progress and peace and victory in war and bold leadership in this anxious hour were the misbegotten spawn of socialism, bungling, corruption, mismanagement, waste, and worse. They captured tide and dragged that ragged idea and furiously beat it to death. After listening to this everlasting procession of epitaphs about our misdeeds, I was even surprised the next morning when the mail was delivered on time. I guess our Republican friends were out of patience, out of sorts, and need I add, out of office.

Dore Schary: Five days later in accepting his nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate, he added these unconventional sentences to our convention history.

Ralph Bellamy: "And now my friends that you have made your decision, I will fight to win that office with all my heart and soul. And with your help I have no doubt that we will win. What does concern me in common with thinking partisans of both parties is not just winning this election, but how it is won. How well we can take advantage of this great quadrennial opportunity to debate issues sensibly and soberly. I hope and pray that we Democrats win or lose can campaign not as a crusade to exterminate the opposing party, as our opponents seem to prefer, but as a great opportunity to educate and elevate a people whose destiny is leadership, not alone of a rich and prosperous, contented country, as in the past, but of a world in ferment. And my friends more important than winning the election is governing the nation. That is the test of a political party, the acid, final test."

Dore Schary: And listen to these timely words spoken in 1952 in the same address.

Paul Newman: "The people are wise, wiser than the Republicans think. And the Democratic party is the people's party, not the labor party, not the firemen's party, not the employer's party. It is the party of no one because it is the party of everyone. That, I think is our ancient mission. Where we have deserted it, we have failed. With your help there will be no desertion now. Better we lose the election then mislead the people and better we lose then misgovern the people. Help me do this job in this autumn of conflict and of campaign. Help me do the job in these years of darkness, doubt, and of crisis which stretch beyond tonight's happy vision. And we will justify our glorious past and the loyalty of silent millions who look to us with a passion for understanding and for honest purpose. Thus we will serve our great tradition greatly."

Dore Schary: In that campaign of 1952, Adlai Stevenson was defeated. This is part of what he said about that campaign at the Gridiron Club, December 13th, 1952.

"A funny thing happened to me on the way to the White House; however, I enjoyed the campaign in spots. There were times, I confess when I was afraid I would not die and times when I felt I wouldn't do it to a dog. Let me add by the way, like every red-blooded American patriot I own a dog. It was not a campaign contribution."

Adlai Stevenson was an American aristocrat, a statesman, a reluctant politician, and a wit. A man whose range of interests was vast and eclectic.

Ralph Bellamy: "If we were asked to name the most profound issues at stake in the world today, I suppose that most of us would say the issues of freedom and democracy. We would say that the western world for all its errors and shortcomings has for centuries tried to evolve a society in which the individual has enough legal, social, and political elbow room to be not the puppet of the community but his own, autonomous self. And we would say that the enemies of freedom whatever the magnificent ends they propose; the brotherhood of man, the kingdom of saints, from each according to his ability to each according to his needs; miss just this essential point, that man is greater than the social purposes to which he can be put. He must not be kicked about even with the most high-minded objectives. He is not a means or an instrument. He is an end in himself."

Paul Newman: "We live in a time when it is necessary as never before to call attention, serious meditative even urgent attention to the democratic legacy of this nation. For as the word legacy itself implies, our democratic principles are not an heirloom to be kept on the shelf, or a magic wand to be waved without effort, or a plushy patrimony to be enjoyed without work. It is a kind of inheritance which every generation must earn anew by reconquering the known wisdom of the past and by wrestling with the unknown hopes and dangers of the present."

Ralph Bellamy: "When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, inner life in which freedom lives. In which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."

Dore Schary: Hardly an aspect of American life or of international affairs for that matter escaped his attention. Adlai Stevenson was America's spokesman at the United Nations and its most eloquent champion in the community of nations.

Paul Newman: "If communism is a problem for the United Nations, so is the United Nations a problem for communism. The United Nations is a community of tolerance and a community of tolerance is a terrible frustration to the totalitarian mind."

Ralph Bellamy: "Without the United Nations, we would have to try to create it. To create it now might even be impossible. Witness all these threats to international peace and security, which in the nuclear age could rapidly escalate into a war which wouldn't kill millions, but which would destroy everyone. This has to be prevented at all costs."

Dore Schary: Stevenson never made the mistake of being merely solemn and he never advocated words as any sort of substitute for action.

Paul Newman: "I yield to no man, if I may borrow the majestic parliamentary phrase, and my belief in the principle of free debate inside or outside the halls of Congress. The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our opinions. But there is also a moment at which democracy must prove its capacity to act. Every man has a right to be heard but no man has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal cords."

Ralph Bellamy: "Solemnity in politicians is not only tiresome but may even mask those twin sins self-righteousness and intolerance for the opinions of others. If I couldn't laugh I couldn't live, especially in politics."

Dore Schary: No, this was no ordinary man. He once described a campaign tour he had to make in this way, "And too there is mirth mingled with misery all the way. They shout good ole Adli. If you run for office and have a slightly unusual name, let me advise you either to change it before you start or be prepared to take other people's word for it."

Paul Newman: While he was still Governor of Illinois, he was asked on rather short notice to speak at some local festival. And this is how he began his remarks, "Perhaps my function is not unlike that which a rural county judge was once called upon to play. Lingering in his chambers one Saturday afternoon after the close of the business week, he was suddenly confronted by a young GI who had un..unexpectedly received a 48 hour leave and who having his intended in tow thought to improve the time by getting married. The high hopes of the pair were dashed by the judge's kind but firm explanation that, without the license which could not be procured because the appropriate offices were closed, the ceremony itself could not be performed. 'But judge', the boy asked, 'Couldn't you just say a few words to tide us over the weekend?'"

Ralph Bellamy: "Man does not live by words alone, in spite of the fact that sometimes he has to eat them."

Paul Newman: "Idealism in modern times has not always been fashionable unless something be justified by hard headed self-interest. It is said to have no chance. But let us remember that kindness and idealism may be practical too. And practical or not they stand well in the eyes of God."

Ralph Bellamy: "I wish the world could better know this country for what it really is. Not just a greedy economic giant crouching fearfully behind its walls, not just a panoplied warrior nervously fingering his weapons. What is this, is a people who gather together in thousands to give a people's government its essential vitality."

Dore Schary: This creative, profound, humorous, urbane, gentle, and compassionate man, Adlai Stevenson has gone from us. His passage through his extraordinary life was relatively short and the world will not soon know his like again. We reeled under our loss. When he lay down his staggering burdens, it was somehow fitting that he was within earshot of the American Embassy in London. As we mourn him, we counted ourselves lucky that we knew him either close up or from a distance. None of us will ever be quite the same for the encounter. All of us pray that somewhere, somehow, he is now realizing his wistful dream so heart-stoppingly expressed, "Oh what I would really like is just to sit in the shade with a glass of wine and watch the dancers."

Paul Newman: Always he managed to say precisely what we wanted said. In 1953 it was he who made the first full-throated attack on reckless red-baiting. An attack so measured, so devastating and so valiant, that it was the clarion call that led to the end of a sad and bewildered era during which so many were unjustly pilloried and persecuted. There were other heroes, the magnificent Edward R. Murrow and the whimsical Joseph Welch, but Governor Stevenson was the first and that act alone fastened our loyalty to him.

Ralph Bellamy: In the years that followed, through the campaign of 1956 during which he articulated ideas which were then ridiculed but now have been realized, during the pre-convention days of 1960 and during his Ambassadorship with the United Nations, he pursued on the scene of our national life, the highest level of peaceful purpose. He traveled endlessly, worked tirelessly, and endured the burden of responsibility even in those instances where we sensed his personal attitudes were perhaps in conflict with those placed upon him in public office. Always his wit and his wisdom sustained him, and us. Always we were taken by his innate modesty and selflessness. These virtues were constant.

Paul Newman: In my profession, bursting with egos which cover so many insecurities, his modesty was perhaps his most appealing characteristic, to a greater degree than anyone we had ever known. He never took for granted his fame. He never believed the gravitational pull he exerted and never once failed to be startled by the devotion of his supporters. Now this good man is gone. We are told make much of one. Good men are scarce. Adlai Stevenson was such a man.

Dore Schary: Archibald MacLeish in some way said better than most what we lost on July 14th, 1965, the day Adlai Stevenson died.

Ralph Bellamy: "It was himself he gave, in word and thought and action. Not to his friends alone but to his country, to his world. And the gift had consequences. It changed the tone and temper of political life in the United States for a generation. It humanized the quality of international dialogue throughout a great part of the world. It enlightened a dark time. Which means I suppose that Adlai Stevenson's great achievement was himself. What we have lost as he said of his friend Mrs. Roosevelt is not his life. He lived that out if not to the full at least more fully than almost any other man. What we have lost is himself. And who can name the warmth and richness of it."

Dore Schary: Now friends of Adlai Stevenson let us stand for a moment in silent memorial tribute.

Thank you friends of Adlai Stevenson.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Research Note: Transcription by Diane Wiegand

Page Updated: 1/5/24

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