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Adlai Stevenson's values were "liberal*," meaning he favored progress and reform, the protection of civil liberties, and broad-minded tolerance of differences.

 
Stevenson was the leading voice of liberalism in America from 1952 to 1965. He was no ideal dreamer, but he believed in humankind's capacity for decency and compassion. And he believed that government could play an indispensable role in fostering decency and compassion between individuals and nations.

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Faith in Liberalism, Address to the Liberal Party


Excerpt: "...The challenge to all of us is to prove that a free society can remain free, humane and creative, even when it is under heavy and ruthless fire; that it can combat poverty, injustice and intolerance in its own midst, even while resisting a monstrous foreign despotism; and that it can give man a glimpse of serenity and of hope, even while calling on them for sacrifice...."
(August 28, 1952)


Background: In this speech, Stevenson warned of abuses stemming from the anti-communist crusades of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin. McCarthy was infuriated over the "loss" of China to Mao Zedong and the communists. McCarthy also made unsubstantiated allegations that the U.S. State Department was riddled with communist spies.

Stevenson too was an anti-communist. After all, in the excerpt above he called upon the U.S. to resist "monstrous foreign despotism," a clear reference to the Soviet Union. Nonetheless Stevenson's anti-communism was not one of domestic witch hunts and bald partisan gain. His liberal philosophy translated into a commitment to protecting freedoms and individual liberties both here and abroad.


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