Leaders’ Words Fuel “We Love Our Presidents” Walkers

Longtime Northeast Minneapolis residents are justifiably proud of the fact that neighborhood kids know their presidents – in chronological order (though some struggle with the legacy of where Stinson fits in or how come Delano Street is down near Hennepin or whatever happened to President Ulysses or Quincy or Benjamin?

Past Presidents’ Day posts on this blog have covered stories of the patriotism and persistence that led to conferring presidential names and a sense of history on the neighborhood.   Find more background by searching “presidents walk” on Poking Around with Mary. Kirsten Delegard also tackled “The President Streets” in a February 2014 piece on Streets.mn.

Each year, on or near Presidents’ Day, Northeasters show their love for their Presidents – and for the neighborhood – by walking the We Love Our Presidents Walk (https://www.facebook.com/We-Love-Our-Presidents-Walk-239536966115675/). In a community that celebrates its heritage, the Presidents’ Day Walk is an honored tradition.

Past blog posts have focused on the stories of how the streets got their names – especially the wave of Americanism that swept the nation post-World War I. In that era public sentiment led civic leaders to drop the names of early settlers in favor of the names of U.S. Presidents. The practice later continued as presidential names replaced the names of early settlers and the original lettered names – in a stroke of the pen “L” became “Harding”, “M” was “Coolidge”, “O” became “Hoover” and “P was suddenly “Delano.”

This season offers a different take on the traditional walk and accompanying blog post. Listening to the barrage of words spewing forth from 2016 presidential candidates it’s occurred to me that we are familiar with the stories but not the living words of past presidents. By what words did they live? What verbal gems remind us of their observations on life and what sage adages might relate to 21st Century Presidents’ Day walkers?

What follows is a highly selective and flagrantly opinionated jumble of presidential quotes that pique my interest and, in some cases, offer new insights into the character of the speaker.

Though the walk has migrated over the years, the legacy of the presidents is static. What follows are snippets of their expressed thoughts – in chronological and geographic order (mostly).

* * *

  • Washington St. NE is named for George Washington
  • It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unformed.
  • Madison St NE is named for James Madison
  • Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
  • Monroe St NE is named for James Monroe
  • Preparation for war is a constant stimulus to suspicion and ill will.
  • Quincy St NE is named for John Quincy Adams
  • If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
  • Jackson St NE is named for Andrew Jackson
  • It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes.
  • Van Buren St NE is named for Martin Van Buren
  • Banks properly established and conducted are highly useful to the business of the country, and will doubtless continue to exist in the State so long as they conform to their laws and are found to be safe and beneficial.
  • Harrison St NE is named for William Henry Harrison
  • All the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
  • Tyler Street NE is named for John Tyler
  • I was called from my farm to undertake the administration of public affairs and I foresaw that I was called to a bed of thorns. I now leave that bed which has afforded me little rest, and eagerly seek repose in the quiet enjoyments of rural life
  • Polk Street NE is named for James K. Polk
  • Foreign powers do not seem to appreciate the true character of our government. 
  • Taylor St NE is named for Zachary Taylor
  • I have no private purpose to accomplish, no party objectives to build up, no enemies to punish—nothing to serve but my country.”
  • Fillmore St NE is named for Millard Fillmore
  • Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office-seeking. Men of good character and impulses are betrayed by it into all sorts of meanness.
  • Pierce St NE is named for Franklin Pierce
  • The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution.
  • Buchanan St NE is named for James Buchanan
  • The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.
  • Lincoln St NE is named for Abraham Lincoln
  • May our children and our children’s children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under those glorious institutions bequeathed us by Washington and his compeers
  • Johnson St NE is named for Andrew Johnson
  • Legislation can neither be wise nor just which seeks the welfare of a single interest at the expense and to the injury of many and varied.
  • Ulysses St NE is named for Ulysses S. Grant
  • Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor. 
  • Hayes St NE is named for Rutherford B. Hayes
  • One of the tests of the civilization of people is the treatment of its criminals.
  • Garfield St NE is named for James A. Garfield
  • Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.
  • Arthur St NE is named for Chester A. Arthur
  • If politics were really a serious business, of course, the indifference of the press and the people to such serious issues would also be a series matter.
  • Cleveland St NE is named for Grover Cleveland
  • A government for the people must depend for its success on the intelligence, the morality, the justice, and the interest of the people themselves.
  • Benjamin St NE is named for Benjamin Harrison
  • I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.
  • McKinley St NE is named for William McKinley
  • War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.

Stinson Boulevard — Not to worry when you get to Stinson –It’s a naming anomaly. Stinson is one link in the historic Grand Rounds (http://minneapolisparkhistory.com/tag/stinsonboulevard over which the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has naming rights. It is said that Stinson was a generous donor and non-resident of Minneapolis.


The ideas are provocative in themselves; some survive, some predict, the passage of time. More important, perhaps, pondering the opinions of the nation’s leaders may warm the heart if not the feet as Northeasters trudge West to East through this historic community.   Those who can’t join the walkers may want to spend some time just reading and thinking about what the presidents have had to say as they campaigned, as they led the nation through troubled times, and as their thoughts ring true or fail the test of time. Some of their ideas may amuse, others surprise, still others inspire or confirm the thoughts of the reader.

The 8th annual “We Love Our Presidents Walk” is set for 2016 is Saturday, February 13.



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