There are many quotes on poverty from world leaders that make it clear what their stance is. American leaders are no different; they too have things to say about poverty. These former presidents understood the roots and the long-term effects of poverty on human beings. Below is a list of seven quotes on poverty with some background information on the former American presidents.
Seven Quotes On Poverty From Former U.S. Presidents
- John F. Kennedy: Kennedy served in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives until he became the 35th U.S. president in 1961. Some of his top achievements include the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. It was also Kennedy’s administration that established the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961, thanks to the increasing activism that was spreading among the West. The idea behind the Peace Corps was to find volunteers who would be willing to work on improving the social and economic conditions across the globe in order to promote modernization and development. Kennedy was quoted saying, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. [Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961]”
- Bill Clinton: William Jefferson Clinton enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. His two terms as President were correlated with economic prosperity from 1992 to 1998. Clinton’s vision in terms of foreign policy was intertwined with globalization as he believed that domestic events can be sharply affected by foreign events. He was quoted saying, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.”
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to be president four times even though he was known at Harvard to be an ‘unimpressive C student.’ He led the United States both during the Great War and World War II. He established reforms in the powers of the federal government through the New Deal, including the CCC, the WPA, the TVA etc. In the earlier period of his presidency, he led the “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt was quoted saying, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower: Dwight D. Eisenhower was first appointed as U.S. Army chief of staff in 1945. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The following year, he was elected President. Eisenhower served two terms before retiring in 1961. The policy of containment became popular under the Eisenhower administration through the introduction of bilateral and multilateral treaties, including the CENTO and the SEATO. Eisenhower was quoted saying, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
- Lyndon B. Johnson: Lyndon B. Johnson initially served as vice president under John F. Kennedy in 1960. After Kennedy’s death in 1962, he became the 36th president himself. Johnson was widely acknowledged for his ‘Great Society’ social service programs, the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Johnson was quoted saying, “The hungry world cannot be fed until and unless the growth of its resources and the growth of its population come into balance. Each man and woman – and each nation – must make decisions of conscience and policy in the face of this great problem.”
- George W. Bush: George W. Bush served as the 43rd President in the United States. He is remembered as the leader of the country during the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He was involved in the policy of the fight against HIV/AIDS where he proposed a $15 billion initiative known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This initiative led to an increase from 50,000 to 3 million Africans receiving AIDS medication. Bush was quoted saying, “Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side. America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.”
- Barack Obama: Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president and the first African-American president of the United States. Before being elected president, Obama served in the U.S. Senate in the state of Illinois. Obama’s main stance on foreign policy was restraint. He tried his best to limit large-scale military operations and maximize diplomatic cooperation. He shared the burdens and responsibilities of international leadership with leaders from other countries. Obama was quoted saying, “As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.”
It is important to highlight these seven quotes on poverty from our leaders to remind us how national and global poverty can affect everyone’s daily lives. This effect can come through in the forms of policies or everyday interactions.
– Nergis Sefer