Jefferson Smith quotes

Dad always used to say the only causes worth fighting for were the lost causes. The origin of this quote is Ethel Lina White's The Wheel Spins, published in 1936.

[Describing his home state] I've been over every single foot of it. You could have no idea. You just have to see it for yourself. I don't know. The prairies and wind leaning on the tall grass and lazy streams down in the meadows, angry little midgets of water up in the mountains, cattle moving down the slope against the sun. Campfires and snowdrifts. You know, everybody ought to have some of that sometime in his life. My dad had the right idea. And it all worked out. He used to say to me: 'Son, don't miss the wonders that surround you because every tree, every rock, every anthill, every star is filled with the wonders of nature.' And he used to say to me: 'Have you ever noticed how grateful you are to see daylight again after coming through a long dark tunnel?' 'Well,' he'd say, 'Always try to see life around ya as if you'd just come out of a tunnel.'

You sure had the right idea about me, Saunders. You told me to go back home, keep fillin' those kids full of hooey. Yeah. Just a simple guy you said was still wet behind the ears. A lot of junk about American ideals. Yeah, that's certainly a lot of junk, all right...I don't know. This is a whole new world to me. What are you gonna believe in? And a man like Paine, Senator Joseph Paine gets up and swears that I've been robbin' kids of nickels and dimes - a man I've admired and worshipped all my life. I don't know. There are a lot of fancy words around this town. Some of them are carved in stone. Some of 'em, I guess the Taylors and Paines have put 'em up there so suckers like me can read 'em. Then when you find out what men actually do - Well, I'm gettin' out of this town so fast and away from all the words and the monuments and the whole rotten show.

The people of my state need permanent relief from crooked men riding their backs.

[After reading the Declaration of Independence] Now, you're not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven't got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose. [The Senate applauds] It's a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. I wouldn't be a bit suprised if some of these Senators were boys once. And that's why it seemed like a pretty good idea for me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year. And build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days. And it seemed like a pretty good idea, getting boys from all over the country, boys of all nationalities and ways of living. Getting them together. Let them find out what makes different people tick the way they do. Because I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a - a little lookin' out for the other fella, too...That's pretty important, all that. It's just the blood and bone and sinew of this democracy that some great men handed down to the human race, that's all. But of course, if you've got to build a dam where that boys camp ought to be, to get some graft to pay off some political army or something, well that's a different thing. Oh no! If you think I'm going back there and tell those boys in my state and say: 'Look. Now fellas. Forget about it. Forget all this stuff I've been tellin' you about this land you live in is a lot of hooey. This isn't your country. It belongs to a lot of James Taylors.' Oh no! Not me! And anybody here that thinks I'm gonna do that, they've got another thing comin'. (He whistles loudly with his fingers in his mouth, startling Senators who are dozing or reading other materials) That's all right. I just wanted to find out if you still had faces. I'm sorry gentlemen. I-I know I'm being disrespectful to this honorable body, I know that. I- A guy like me should never be allowed to get in here in the first place. I know that! And I hate to stand here and try your patience like this, but EITHER I'M DEAD RIGHT OR I'M CRAZY.

[His voice very hoarse, from his filibuster] Just get up off the ground, that's all I ask. Get up there with that lady that's up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won't just see scenery; you'll see the whole parade of what Man's carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so's he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that's what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we'd better get those boys' camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it's not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again!

I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about the lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason that any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor.' And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine. And I loved you for it, just as my father did. And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them. Like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine.

I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.

You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if the room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place.

Boy I feel like a house on fire.

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