Walter Reuther

Labor union leader
There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow man. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to do it well.

Walter Philip Reuther (September 1, 1907 – May 9, 1970) was an American leader of organized labor and civil rights activist who built the United Auto Workers (UAW) into one of the most progressive labor unions in American history. He was the husband of May Reuther, and the brother of Victor G. Reuther and Roy L. Reuther.

QuotesEdit

There are often multiple sources for some famous statements by Reuther; as a professional speaker he used some phrases with only slight variation in different settings.
 
Let us never forget that he who would serve God must prove that he is worthy by serving man.
  • The American Dream is not about gadgets. It’s not about the size of our gross national product. It’s not about the level of technological sophistication. The American Dream is about man. It’s about broadening the opportunities and facilitating the growth of every human being, so that each person can reach out and achieve a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
    • Putting the World Together: My Father Walter Reuther: The Liberal Warrior (2004), by Elisabeth Reuther Dickmeyer, p. 134
  • Labor is not fighting for a larger slice of the national pie. Labor is fighting for a larger pie.
    • Writing in The New Republic, Vol. 114 (1946)
       
      We live in a world in which the common denominator that binds the human family together has been reduced to its simplest fundamental term—human survival.
  • We have a saying in the union: "If a fellow looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, the possibility is that he is a duck." That is the way with a Communist. If the guy does everything that the party does, the prospects are very good that he is a party member or fellow traveler.
    • Regarding Communists; hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (1953)
       
      You cannot save democracy in a vacuum of idealism. You have got to be motivated by idealism, but you have got to also be fighting the hard problem of practical politics.
  • There's a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.
    • Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the United Auto Workers, Vol. 22 (1970)
       
      Only in an atmosphere of freedom can the creative genius of the human spirit find full expression
  • American labor had better roll up its sleeves, it had better get the stiffest broom and brush it can find, and the strongest soap and disinfectant, and it had better take on the job of cleaning its own house from top to bottom and drive out every crook and gangster and racketeer we find. Because if we don't clean our own house, then the reactionaries will clean it for us. But they won't use a broom, they'll use an axe, and they'll try to destroy the labor movement in the process.
    • Section of the opening address of the sixteenth constitutional convention of the United Auto Workers, Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 7, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 192
       
      There's a direct relationship between the ballot box and the bread box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.
  • We live in a world in which the common denominator that binds the human family together has been reduced to its simplest fundamental term—human survival.
    • Address before the special constitutional convention of the United Auto Workers, Detroit, Michigan, January 22, 1958, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 214
       
      This is our goal—a world of peace, freedom, and social justice for all people everywhere.
  • We are going to keep preaching the gospel that freedom and democracy in peace are indivisible values in the world and that no one can have them unless they are universal and all people may share them.
    • Address before the special constitutional convention of the United Auto Workers, Detroit, Michigan, January 22, 1958, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 215

1940sEdit

Opening address of the twelfth constitutional convention of the UAW (1949)Edit

  • The trouble is that industry operates on the basis of these double economic and moral standards. They say to the worker when he is too old to work and too young to die, 'You cannot have security in your old age, that is reserved to only the blue bloods, only the ones who were smart enough to pick the right grandfather before they were born. They can have security, but if you live on the wrong side of the railroad tracks you are not entitled to it.'
    • Opening address of the twelfth constitutional convention of the UAW, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 10, 1949, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 39
       
      I have been saying for a long time that the crisis in the world is not economic or political or military. Essentially, the crisis in the world is a moral crisis. It's a reflection of man's growing immorality to himself, of man's growing inhumanity to man. The H-bomb is the highest and most terrible destructive expression of that growing inhumanity.
  • We say to American industry, if you can afford to pay pension plans to people who don't need them, then by the eternal gods you are going to have to pay them to people who do need them.
    • Opening address of the twelfth constitutional convention of the UAW, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 10, 1949, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 41
  • We have to reassert the sovereignty of people above profits in America.
    • Opening address of the twelfth constitutional convention of the UAW, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 10, 1949, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 43
       
      We must learn to judge people, not by their color or race or creed, but rather by their worth as human beings.

1950sEdit

Address accepting the Presidency of the CIO (1952)Edit

  • You cannot make peace and freedom secure in the world as long as hundreds of millions of people are denied the necessities of life, so long as millions and millions of people are committed to belong to the have-not nations, and they and their children are denied the right to achieve economic and social justice.
    • Address accepting the Presidency of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 4, 1952, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 49-50
       
      The great challenge before us is to find a way to get people and nations working together in the positive and rewarding task of peace as they have repeatedly joined together in the senseless and destructive waging of war.
  • Free management must realize that in a free society there is no substitute for the voluntary discharge of social responsibility.
    • Address accepting the Presidency of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 4, 1952, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 51
       
      I've often thought: Why is it that you can get a great nation like America marching, fighting, sacrificing, and dying in the struggle to destroy the master race theory in Berlin, and people haven't got an ounce of courage to fight against the master race theory in America? We need the same sense of dedication, the same courage, and the same determination to fight the immorality of segregation and racial bigotry in America as we did in the battlefields against Hitlersim.
  • All the learned men with all their wisdom, with all of the legal niceties they can put together on the finest of parchment, cannot produce one ton of steel.
    • Address accepting the Presidency of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 4, 1952, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 51
       
      Just sit down on a doorstep with a peasant in a village of Northern India and take on the task of trying to explain to him why America, conceived in freedom and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, a nation that can split the atom, that can make a pursuit ship go three times as fast as sound and yet, in this twentieth century, we can't live together in brotherhood and we continue to discriminate against Negroes. It will tax your ingenuity, and you will give them no answers. You can only give them excuses. And excuses are not good enough, if we are going to win the struggle of freedom in the world.

Closing address at the final convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (1955)Edit

  • Let us never forget that he who would serve God must prove that he is worthy by serving man.
    • Closing Address at the final convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, New York, New York, December 2, 1955, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 102
       
      I have been saying for a long time that I believe the more young Americans who are trained to join with other young people in the world to be sent abroad with slide rule, textbook, and medical kit to help people help themselves with the tools of peace, the fewer young people will need to be sent with guns and weapons of war.
  • There is no greater calling than to serve your brother. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.
    • Closing Address at the final convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, New York, New York, December 2, 1955, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 102
       
      We share the belief that every child is made in the image of God and that every child ought to have the right to an educational opportunity that will enable that child to grow intellectually and spiritually and culturally—not limited by antiquated classrooms, overcrowded classes, or underpaid teachers—but limited only by the capacity which God gave that child to grow.

A Separate Opinion to the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy (1956)Edit

  • In the struggle for the hearts and minds of millions of yet uncommitted people in the economically underdeveloped portions of the world, the more young Americans we send to help as technical missionaries—with slide rule, with textbook, and with medical kit—to work in the pursuit of peace, the fewer we might need to send with guns and flame-throwers to resist Communist aggression on the battlefields.
    • A Separate Opinion to the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, submitted as a member of the Panel on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, January 25, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 126
       
      I've read in the papers, as you do, about juvenile delinquency. I've always had a feeling that the problem in America is not juvenile delinquency, but adult delinquency. Our children are not failing us—it is we who are failing our children.

Address before the Indian Council on World Affairs (1956)Edit

  • The great challenge before us is to find a way to use the bright promise of science and technology in a massive retaliation against poverty, hunger, and social injustice in the world.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 130
       
      But in truth, America is the last, best hope of freedom. If we can't make freedom and democracy work in America, then it can't be made to work any place in the world.
  • Free labor understands and acts in the knowledge the the struggle for peace and the struggle for human freedom are inseparably tied together with the struggle for social justice.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 131
  • We believe that it is not enough to fight against the things that we oppose—we must fight with equal courage and equal dedication for the things that we believe in.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 131
       
      The American Dream is not about gadgets. It’s not about the size of our gross national product. It’s not about the level of technological sophistication. The American Dream is about man. It’s about broadening the opportunities and facilitating the growth of every human being, so that each person can reach out and achieve a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  • Democratic nations must seek and find unity in diversity, while Communists achieve unity through conformity.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 133
       
      If the peoples of great nations can work, sacrifice, fight, and die together because they share common fears and common hatreds in war, why can we not find a way to tap the great spiritual reservoir that lies deep within each of us and get people and nations working, sacrificing, and building together in peacetime because they share common hopes and common aspirations.
  • Only in an atmosphere of freedom can the creative genius of the human spirit find full expression.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 135
       
      Free management must realize that in a free society there is no substitute for the voluntary discharge of social responsibility.
  • I have been saying for a long time that I believe the more young Americans who are trained to join with other young people in the world to be sent abroad with slide rule, textbook, and medical kit to help people help themselves with the tools of peace, the fewer young people will need to be sent with guns and weapons of war.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 136
       
      We have to reassert the sovereignty of people above profits in America.
  • The struggle against racial intolerance and racial discrimination and bigotry must be waged everywhere in the world wherever such immoral and ugly practices exist.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 141
  • We must learn to judge people, not by their color or race or creed, but rather by their worth as human beings.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 141
  • Just as the moral and spiritual power of Gandhi won in Indian, so American Negroes shall win in America, and they shall take their place as free and equal citizens in the family of American democracy.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 141
  • The great challenge before us is to find a way to get people and nations working together in the positive and rewarding task of peace as they have repeatedly joined together in the senseless and destructive waging of war.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 141
  • If the peoples of great nations can work, sacrifice, fight, and die together because they share common fears and common hatreds in war, why can we not find a way to tap the great spiritual reservoir that lies deep within each of us and get people and nations working, sacrificing, and building together in peacetime because they share common hopes and common aspirations.
    • Address before the Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India, April 5, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 141

Statement to the Senate Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections (1956)Edit

  • You cannot save democracy in a vacuum of idealism. You have got to be motivated by idealism, but you have got to also be fighting the hard problem of practical politics.
    • Statement to the Senate Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, Washington, D.C., October 9, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 170

Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association (1956)Edit

  • The crisis in the world is not economic, military, or political; essentially, it is a moral crisis. It is a reflection of man's growing inhumanity to man, which finds its most horrible expression in the total destruction now made possible by the H-bomb. I believe our problem is a reflection of the fact that there is a growing and most serious moral and cultural gap between the progress we have made as a people in the physical sciences, and our lack of progress in the human and social sciences. We know much better how to work with the machines than we know how to live with people.
    • Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association, Cleveland, Ohio, November 23, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 178
  • Why do we have these machines? Is economic effort an end, or is it a means to an end? Obviously it must be a means to an end. And the end must be the enrichment of human life, and the expansion of frontiers for human growth, not for just the few, but for the many.
    • Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association, Cleveland, Ohio, November 23, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 180
  • I ask this simple question. I ask it of you and I ask it of my fellow Americans everywhere. Why is it that we have the courage to mobilize the power of America to meet the challenge of war, but we fail to have the same courage to mobilize America to meet the challenge of peace?
    • Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association, Cleveland, Ohio, November 23, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 184
  • I'm proud of the role the American labor movement has played historically in fighting to make education possible for everyone's child. We share the belief that every child is made in the image of God and that every child ought to have the right to an educational opportunity that will enable that child to grow intellectually and spiritually and culturally—not limited by antiquated classrooms, overcrowded classes, or underpaid teachers—but limited only by the capacity which God gave that child to grow.
    • Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association, Cleveland, Ohio, November 23, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 186
  • I've read in the papers, as you do, about juvenile delinquency. I've always had a feeling that the problem in America is not juvenile delinquency, but adult delinquency. Our children are not failing us—it is we who are failing our children.
    • Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association, Cleveland, Ohio, November 23, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 186
  • These are the sober facts. This is where we are. We stand there in that delicate, precarious balance on the rim of hell, and on the other side is this brave new world that lies ready to be realized. This is one of the great tragedies of the world—and you history teachers perhaps know it better than I—that we find chapter after chapter of the history books filled with the stories of man's inhumanity to man and of the great wars. In those great wars of the world's history, many nations achieved their highest expression of collective action—they worked, they marched, they sacrificed, and they died because they were driven forward by the negative motivations of war and because of their common fears and common hatreds. I believe that the great challenge of the leadership of the world is to find a way to tap the great spiritual reservoir, the great spiritual power that lies deep within the human breast, and find a way to get people working, marching, building, and sacrificing because of positive peacetime motivations and because they have common hopes, common aspirations, and common faith.
    • Address before the National Council for Social Studies of the National Education Association, Cleveland, Ohio, November 23, 1956, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 189-190

Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1957)Edit

  • I'm proud to belong to the NAACP, because it is made up of people who are dedicated in a great crusade to make America true to itself. This is what this is about. Make America live up to its highest hopes and aspirations and translate those hopes and aspirations into practical, tangible reality in the lives of all people, whether they are white or black, whether they live in the North or the South. I say that each of us is blessed that we can be engaged in this crusade, in this struggle for justice, for human dignity, in this struggle to wipe out in every phase of our national life every ugly immoral kind of discrimination.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 195
  • When the employer can divide you and pit white against black, American-born against foreign-born, he can divide and rule and exploit everyone.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 197
  • I've often thought: Why is it that you can get a great nation like America marching, fighting, sacrificing, and dying in the struggle to destroy the master race theory in Berlin, and people haven't got an ounce of courage to fight against the master race theory in America? We need the same sense of dedication, the same courage, and the same determination to fight the immorality of segregation and racial bigotry in America as we did in the battlefields against Hitlersim.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 197
  • I have been saying for a long time that the crisis in the world is not economic or political or military. Essentially, the crisis in the world is a moral crisis. It's a reflection of man's growing immorality to himself, of man's growing inhumanity to man. The H-bomb is the highest and most terrible destructive expression of that growing inhumanity. And in a sense our crisis in America—the crisis in education, the crisis in civil rights—is not political, it is moral. But we haven't demonstrated the moral courage to step up to solving these problems, and this is our basic problem. America is in crisis, not because it lacks the economic resources, not because it lacks the political know-how, not because we don't know how to do the job of squaring democracy's practices with its noble promises. We just haven't demonstrated the moral courage. And until we do, we will not meet this basic crisis in civil rights and in education.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 197
  • Just sit down on a doorstep with a peasant in a village of Northern India and take on the task of trying to explain to him why America, conceived in freedom and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, a nation that can split the atom, that can make a pursuit ship go three times as fast as sound and yet, in this twentieth century, we can't live together in brotherhood and we continue to discriminate against Negroes. It will tax your ingenuity, and you will give them no answers. You can only give them excuses. And excuses are not good enough, if we are going to win the struggle of freedom in the world.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 201
  • But in truth, America is the last, best hope of freedom. If we can't make freedom and democracy work in America, then it can't be made to work any place in the world.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 203
  • The Supreme Court is living in the twentieth century and the Congress is still somewhere back in the dark nineteenth century. It's about time they catch up.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 203
  • Well, I want to say to these people in Congress that they have been on the longest sit-down strike in the history of America—eight long years. And we think it's about time that they terminate that sit-down strike on civil rights and begin to turn out some legislation.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 203
  • Well, there are some mighty fine people in America who tell you, "yes," they are against discrimination in every phase. They are opposed to it in terms of job opportunities. They are opposed to it in terms of education. They are opposed to it in terms of transportation. But, they say, "legislation is not the way to do it; you've got to get hatred out of men's hearts." Well, we agree. Education is important. But you can't educate this problem out of existence by education alone. You've got to work both on the educational front and the legislative front. And you've got to parallel those two activities right down the line.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 205
  • We want an America in which every child has educational opportunity, an America in which every citizen has equal job opportunity, equal rights to the use of all public facilities, the right to live in a decent neighborhood, in a decent home.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 207
  • The task is difficult. The struggle will be hard, but let us always remember that human progress has never been served to mankind on a silver platter. The history of the world shows chapter after chapter that men of faith and courage have had to fight to bring to fulfillment their dreams and their hopes and their aspirations. What we need to do is keep the faith. Keep the faith in ourselves. And when the going is rough, as it will be, let us remember the the test of one's convictions is not how did you behave, how did you stand up, when it was convenient and comfortable. The test of one's convictions is: Do you stand up for the things you believe when it takes courage? Do you stand up in the face of adversity, in the face of great controversy? This is the kind of fight we are engaged in. That's why when the going is rough, always remember that there are millions of us, and that together we can move mountains, and that together we can solve this problem and make America in the image of what it really stands for. So I say to you, we pledge our hands and our hearts, we pledge our all to you in this struggle, because we believe that this is the most important struggle that America must win, if it is going to be true to itself and provide leadership to the free world. And if we mobilize our multitudes, if we mobilize all the people of good will and good faith in America, I say that we can do the job, and together we can build that brave new tomorrow that we dream about and fashion it in the image of peace, freedom and justice, and human brotherhood.
    • Address before the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Detroit, Michigan, June 26, 1957, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 207-208

Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally (1959)Edit

  • Freedom is an indivisible value and when the freedom of one is threatened the freedom of all is in jeopardy.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 279
  • No man and no people live as an island unto themselves.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 279
  • The real test of friendship and solidarity is not where one stands when the weather is fair and the sun is shining but rather where one stands at a time of storm and stress.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 280
  • Freedom, like peace, can be made secure only as it is made universal.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 280
  • We must negotiate from unity and strength and stay firm on matters of principle and flexible on matters of procedure.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 280
  • For centuries man has struggled to divide up economic scarcity. There was too little food for the hungry, too little clothing for the naked. Now for the first time in the history of mankind, we have within our grasp the economic tools of unprecedented abundance which can end man's ageless struggle against want and misery. The same scientific and technical know-how which brought forth the H-bomb and guided missiles gives to the world automation and the tools of economic abundance. Will mankind have the vision and common sense to use the new tools of abundance to usher in an era of human progress and human fulfillment?
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 280
  • This is our goal—a world of peace, freedom, and social justice for all people everywhere.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 280
  • Together we shall build a world of peace, freedom, security, social justice, and brotherhood.
    • Address before the Berlin Freedom Rally, West Berlin, Germany, May 1, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 280

Meeting with Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev (1959)Edit

  • One thing we must do, most of all, in the future, is to harness the atom for peace and get all of the miners out of the earth.
    • Text of interview with Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, San Francisco, California, September 20, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 301
  • The only war America wants to fight is war against poverty, hunger, ignorance, and disease. It's the only war mankind can win.
    • Text of interview with Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, San Francisco, California, September 20, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 302
  • Therefore, as we see it, the cold war is not an attempt to change each other's systems of government, but to influence those that are uncommitted.
    • Text of interview with Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, San Francisco, California, September 20, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 303
  • Wall Street says I am an agent of Moscow, and Moscow says I am an agent of Wall Street.
    • Text of interview with Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, San Francisco, California, September 20, 1959, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 314

Television interview with Mike Wallace (1960)Edit

  • I think one of the things we need to do is to avoid the tragic waste of human potential.

Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 317

  • I happen to believe that this is the crux of where we're going in terms of the future of the American economy. I think that the basic problem is to find a way to work out the competing equities among the three groups—the worker, the stockholder, and the consumer—so that we share the abundance in a way that would create the dynamics of growth and expansion.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 319
  • We will not meet the problems of tomorrow by talking about yesterday's concepts.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 310
  • The problems of tomorrow require whole new concepts of how a free economy can work. As the tools of production become more productive, it means that we've got to find the markets by which people can absorb this greater productivity. Unless the fruits of technology are shared among workers and stockholders and consumers more equitably, the economy gets in trouble because you develop a lag between the ability to create wealth on the one hand, and the inability of people to consume the wealth that we know how to create.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 320
  • When we get to the place in the development of our society where the tools of abundance can take care of the material needs of the outer man with less and less human effort, the real emphasis then has to be shifted to enabling the inner man to grow.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 321-322
  • I am for the state only doing what people are unable to do in the absence of government action.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 322
  • If we don't plan for the constructive and creative use of the growing measure of human leisure that we're going to have based upon our technological progress, we can wind up as a well-fed nation of morons.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 323
  • You've got to judge the worth of the government not by what it does to help the few who have too much to get more, but what governments does to help the many to get enough.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 325
  • Now this essentially is the difference between the Republican party and the Democratic party. Philosophically, the Republican party believes that if you help big business to earn higher profit, they will then invest more money in plants. That will create more job opportunities. That will create full employment. They've got this trickle-down theory that you can build prosperity from the top down. The Democrats basically believe that you've got to build prosperity from the bottom up by expanding purchasing power, by doing the things that will make it possible for all the American people to participate in prosperity.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 325
  • Now I share the basic philosophy of Abraham Lincoln when he said that the purpose of government is to enable the people to do together through the instruments of government what they are unable to do without the aid of government.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 327
  • I only want the government to do the things that you can't do without the government.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 328
  • I'm grateful for the contribution [private enterprise] made, but even in the early days of capitalism the government helped a great deal. The railroads got tremendous land grants, the steamship companies got subsidies—they still get subsidies–the airlines got subsidies; none of these great industries developed without some assistance from the government. The whole question here, Mike, the whole question is not are you opposed or are you in favor of government intervention into certain areas of our free society. The question is: Whenever people are either unable or unwilling to do what must be done to maintain the health and advance the well-being of the whole society, then government is the only instrument that the whole people have to look to to do that job. Now, I'm for limiting that; I'm for encouraging voluntary nongovernmental approaches. This is why I try to do everything I can at the collective bargaining table; this is why we fought on the Social Security front, on the pension front. But when you've got a problem like education or medical care for the aged that you can't solve on a nongovernmental basis, then the government must do the job.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 329-330
  • Well, you see, I have nothing against Goldwater. I think he has the finest eighteenth century mind in the U.S. Senate.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 330
  • I think Jimmy Hoffa is bad for the American labor movement because I believe that he is surrounded by forces who are interested in a fast buck, and I think that anybody in the leadership of the American labor movement has got to be dedicated to the advancement of the well-being of the rank-and-file and their families, and whenever they're interested in a fast buck, they ought to be on the other side of the table.
    • Text of television interview with Mike Wallace, New York, New York, October 17 and 18, 1960, as quoted in Walter P Reuther: Selected Papers (1961), by Henry M. Christman, p. 330

1960sEdit

Telegram to President Lyndon B. Johnson regarding "Bloody Sunday" (1965)Edit

  • Americans of all religious faiths, of all political persuasions, and from every section of our Nation are deeply shocked and outraged at the tragic events in Selma Ala., and they look to the Federal Government as the only possible source to protect and guarantee the exercise of constitutional rights, which is being denied and destroyed by the Dallas County law enforcement agents and the Alabama State troops under the direction of Governor George Wallace. Under these circumstances, Mr President, I join in urging you to take immediate and appropriate steps including the use of Federal marshals and troops if necessary, so that the full exercise of constitutional rights including free assembly and free speech be fully protected. Sunday's spectacle of tear gas and night sticks whips and electric cattle prods used against defenseless citizens demonstrating to secure their constitutional right to register and vote as American citizens was an outrage against all decency. This shameful brutality by law enforcing agents makes a mockery of Americans’ concepts of justice and provides effective ammunition to Communist propaganda and our enemies around the world who would weaken and destroy us. Mr President, your prompt and decisive leadership in this crisis is imperative in demonstrating Americans’ fundamental allegiance to the constitutional rights of all citizens. Prompt and decisive action on your part will moreover discourage the apostles of hatred, bigotry, and violence, who would divide America. It will give great encouragement and added strength to the many Americans in the South who, like you and the vast majority of Americans, believe that every citizen has a moral and constitutional right to register and vote. I am confident that in this crisis, Mr President, you will act with the same conviction, courage, and compassion which has characterized your leadership and other periods of challenge.

Quotes about ReutherEdit

  • Walter Reuther was an American visionary so far ahead of his times that although he died a quarter of a century ago, our Nation has yet to catch up to his dreams.

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