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August 3, 1890 Phillips Brooks
(Renowned minister at Harvard; author of lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”; in a letter answering Helen Keller’s questions about God)

I love to tell you about God. But He will tell you himself by the love which He will put into your heart if you ask Him. And Jesus, who is His Son, but is nearer to Him than all of us His other children, came into the world on purpose to tell us all about our Father’s love. If you read His words, you will see how full His heart is of the love of God. “We know that He loves us,” He says. And so He loved men himself and though they were very cruel to Him and at last killed Him, He was willing to die for them because He loved them so. And, Helen, He loves men still, and He loves us, and He tells us that we may love Him.

1899 Julia Ward Howe
(On writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; from Reminiscences of Julia Ward Howe, first published in The Atlantic Monthly,
March 1899)
I went to bed that night as usual and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight, and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, “I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.” So with a sudden effort I sprang out of bed and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper. I had learned to do this when, on previous occasions, attacks of versification had visited me in the night and I feared to have recourse to a light lest I should wake the baby, who slept near me. I was always obliged to decipher my scrawl before another night should intervene, as it was only legible while the matter was fresh in my mind. At this time, having completed my writing, I returned to bed and fell asleep, saying to myself, “I like this better than most things that I have written.”

“Battle Hymn of the Republic” (final stanza)

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

May 1944 Learned Hand
(Presiding judge, Second Circuit Court of Appeals; from his speech “The Spirit of Liberty”)

And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.

What, then, is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near 2,000 years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten — that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

January 20, 1949 Harry S. Truman
(Thirty-third president of the United States; from his inaugural address)

In performing the duties of my office, I need the help and prayers of every one of you. I ask for your encouragement and your support. The tasks we face are difficult, and we can accomplish them only if we work together.

Each period of our national history has had its special challenges. Those that confront us now are as momentous as any in the past. Today marks the beginning not only of a new administration, but of a period that will be eventful, perhaps decisive, for us and for the world.

It may be our lot to experience, and in large measure to bring about, a major turning point in the long history of the human race. The first half of this century has been marked by unprecedented and brutal attacks on the rights of man, and by the two most frightful wars in history. The supreme need of our time is for men to learn to live together in peace and harmony.

The peoples of the earth face the future with grave uncertainty, composed almost equally of great hopes and great fears. In this time of doubt, they look to the United States as never before for good will, strength, and wise leadership.

It is fitting, therefore, that we take this occasion to proclaim to the world the essential principles of the faith by which we live, and to declare our aims to all peoples.

The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this Nation from the beginning. We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. We believe that all men have the right to freedom of thought and expression. We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.

From this faith we will not be moved.

1955 Marian Anderson
(Internationally known classical singer; note on her favorite song, from her autobiography, My Lord, What a Morning
)
Everyone has his favorites. I suppose mine are “Ave Maria,” “Begrüssung,” “Komm, süsser Tod,” Bach’s “Es ist vollbracht,” “The Crucifixion” and, perhaps most precious of all, the spiritual “He Has the Whole World in His Hands.” This spiritual was brought to my attention by Marian Kirby, collector of folk songs of the Negroes and the mountain people. An English musician, Hamilton Forrest, provided a piano part that fits the words like a glove. In many places, even where the audience did not understand English, the song has had to be repeated.

This spiritual reminds us not to lose sight of the fact that we have our times of extremity and that there is a Being who can help us at such a time. It takes in everybody. It speaks first of the wind and the rain. No one can stop the rain, no matter how rich or poor, brilliant or stupid he may be. “He’s got the wind and the rain in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands.” It goes on, “He’s got the lying man, He’s got the gambling man, He’s got the crap-shooting man in His hands.” That takes in most of the transgressors. Then it comes to “little bits-a-baby.” Who will protect them when mother and father can’t? Then “He’s got you and me, brother, in His hands. He’s got you and me, sister, in His hands. He’s got everybody here in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

It is all there in that spiritual. I chose it not alone because I thought the audience would like it, but because it had a cry, an appeal, a meaning to me. It is more, much more, than a number on a concert program.

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