Throughout 2017, Minnesota Public Radio will celebrate 50 years on the air by sharing highlights from our archives, connecting Minnesota's past to its present. | This speech, by then-Sen. Hubert Humprey, originally aired May 28, 1974
Hubert Humphrey served as mayor of Minneapolis, U.S. senator for Minnesota and vice president for Lyndon B. Johnson. The roles gave him plenty of chances to speak in front of crowds — and the gusto with which he did made him Minnesota's most famous orator.
Spanning from 1941, when he made his first run for mayor, to his death in 1978, Humphrey's collection of speeches, notes included, includes over 90,000 pages of text.
Many of those pages, which are part of a collection maintained by the Minnesota Historical Society, contain hand-written edits by the politician, who was notorious for going off-script.
Humphrey's speeches were prolific, but he was also known for the tenacity with which he delivered them. Many addressed his support for civil rights, and later, for the Vietnam War, a stance that earned him enemies on both the right and the left.
In what was among his most memorable speeches, delivered at the Hilton Hotel in St. Paul in 1974, Humphrey roused crowds by detailing the country's ability to take hard knocks and come out a "stronger and better America."
His devotion to fair treatment of all Americans shone through in his words.
Early in the address, he read the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and added:
"The first three words are the most important. They establish for all time that America is 'We the People.'
Not 'we the government,' not 'we the political parties,' not 'we the rich,' not 'we the white,' but 'We the People.' This is the central reference, the focal point of American government."
The speech came as part of the United Way of St. Paul's annual meeting, and Humphrey took the moment to focus on the role of volunteers in that "We the People" society:
"Today, more than ever, we must return to the fundamentals and revive the spirit of our nation.
Today, more than ever, we must not look to government to solve all of our problems.
Today, more than ever, we must look to the spirit of voluntarism — the brotherhood of people concerned, involved, in helping other people.
A brief look at those basic truths that provide the foundation for our political system is essential."
He said Americans should not rely solely on government to help those in need, but ought to rely on each other to solve growing social problems:
"I have never believed that government ought to do everything for everybody, because if government can do everything for you, it can do almost anything to you.