Presidential Reflections and Advice on this Independence Day


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Happy Birthday to the United States of America, now in its 246th year. . . . May she endure for many more.  And to Westwood Minute readers, may you have a happy Fourth of July!

To help mark the occasion, below are a handful of quotes from past U.S. presidents, representing their thoughts about the country, through the years. The quotes are taken from their farewell addresses, upon getting ready to leave office. Find these presidential addresses and more at The American Presidency Project.

"Genius" of the American System

"During the period of my own service in this Capitol and in the White House, I can recall many orderly transitions of governmental responsibility--of problems as well as of position, of burdens as well as of power. The genius of the American system is that we do this so naturally and so normally. There are no soldiers marching in the street except in the Inaugural Parade; no public demonstrations except for some of the dancers at the Inaugural Ball; the opposition party doesn't go underground, but goes on functioning vigorously in the Congress and in the country; and our vigilant press goes right on probing and publishing our faults and our follies, confirming the wisdom of the framers of the first amendment." - Gerald R. Ford

The National Interest Is Not the Sum of All Interests

"Today, as people have become ever more doubtful of the ability of the Government to deal with our problems, we are increasingly drawn to single-issue groups and special interest organizations to ensure that whatever else happens, our own personal views and our own private interests are protected. This is a disturbing factor in American political life. It tends to distort our purposes, because the national interest is not always the sum of all our single or special interests. We are all Americans together, and we must not forget that the common good is our common interest and our individual responsibility." - Jimmy Carter

America's Freedoms are Fragile

"We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs production [protection]." - Ronald Reagan

Including Diversity in a More Perfect Union

"[W]e must remember that America cannot lead in the world unless here at home we weave the threads of our coat of many colors into the fabric of one America. As we become ever more diverse, we must work harder to unite around our common values and our common humanity. We must work harder to overcome our differences, in our hearts and in our laws. We must treat all our people with fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and regardless of when they arrived in our country—always moving toward the more perfect Union of our Founders' dreams." - William J. Clinton

Democracy Requires Solidarity, not Uniformity

"Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our Founders argued. They quarreled. Eventually, they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity: the idea that for all our outward differences, we're all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened that solidarity. The beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change, and the specter of terrorism—these forces haven't just tested our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy as well." - Barack Obama

Rise above Partisan Rancor, Unify around Shared Values

" All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated. Now more than ever, we must unify around our shared values and rise above the partisan rancor and forge our common destiny." - Donald Trump

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