Best Quotes From Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 Presidential Announcement Speech


Neil: Shirley Chisholm is one of the most underrated politicians in American history. She’s mostly known as the first black candidate for President in 1972, which is the source of this speech. I most remember her campaign slogan “Unbought and unbossed“, which promised an independent leader who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the richest, most powerful interests in this country and fight for change. We need a new generation of Shirley Chisholms to break through that glass ceiling with 18 million cracks in it.

  • Book Recommendation: Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm (1970)
  • Link to Video: C-Span
  • This post is part of my series of Notes collecting quotes from my favorite documentaries, interviews, and speeches.

Shirley Chisholm: “I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States of America.”

Shirley Chisholm: “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I’m equally proud of that.

Shirley Chisholm: “I am the candidate of the people of America.

Shirley Chisholm: “And my presence before you, now, symbolizes a new era in American political history.

Shirley Chisholm: “We Americans are a dynamic people because of our rugged individuality and our cherished diversity, because of our belief in human dignity, because of our generosity and good will to our fellow man — and most importantly, because of our tradition of moving forward, forward to actively confront those problems which plague us in a world growing more complex each year.”

Shirley Chisholm: “Like all human beings, we have made mistakes. Our involvement in Vietnam was and remains at this very moment a terrible tragedy.”

Shirley Chisholm: “To leave our men there, or to increase massive bombing in the process of withdrawing them, is to compound the havoc and misery which we are inflicting on the peoples of Indochina; [on our] own young men who have been killed and mutilated and rendered drug addicts; and ourselves — ourselves, whose hard-earned has, during a serious economic recession, made up the billions of dollars spent in Vietnam when we so urgently needed these resources at home.”

Shirley Chisholm: “Vietnam continues to cost us one million dollars a day — this despite President Nixon’s promise, four years ago, to end this nightmare.”

Shirley Chisholm: “Never has so much military, economic, and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively as in Vietnam. If, after all of this time, and all of this sacrifice, and all of this support, there is still no end in sight, then I say that the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the policies and mistakes of the past. I pledge to you: We shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.

Shirley Chisholm: “And beyond Vietnam and its horrors, which have dominated our newspapers and television[s] for eight long years; and beyond the economic recession, which has caused severe hardship [at] home to so many Americans, is the visible, ongoing destruction of our natural environment, and our loss of a sense of personal security in our own daily lives.”

Shirley Chisholm: “Perhaps even more fundamental is our loss of the feeling of community; shock at the continuing injustices and inequities in the land that we love; our suspicions of pervasive constitutional incompetence and corruption; our feeling that there’s an absence of respectable authority in our nation; and our loss of confidence in ourselves, with apathy or despair arising from the conviction that we are powerless to make ourselves heard or felt in remedying our ills.”

Shirley Chisholm: “Fellow Americans, we have looked in vain to the Nixon Administration for the courage, the spirit, the character, and the words to lift us, to bring out the best in us, to rekindle in each of us our faith in the American Dream.”

Shirley Chisholm: “Yet, all that we have received in return is just another smooth exercise in political manipulation, deceit and deception, callousness and indifference to our individual problems, and the disgusting playing of divisive politics — pinning the young against the old, labor against management, North against South, black against white.

Shirley Chisholm: “I cannot believe that this Administration would have ever been elected four years ago if we had known then what we know today”

Shirley Chisholm: “We are entering a new era in which we must, as Americans, demand stature and size in our national leadership — leadership — leadership which is fresh, leadership which is open, and leadership which is receptive to the problems of all Americans.”

Shirley Chisholm: “I have faith in the American people. I believe that we are smart enough to correct our mistakes. I believe we are intelligent enough to recognize the talent, energy, and dedication which all Americans, including women and minorities, have to offer.”

Shirley Chisholm: “I know that millions of Americans from all walks of life agree with me that leadership does not mean putting the ear to the ground to follow public opinion, but to have the vision of what is necessary and the courage to make it possiblenot by force, violence, or intimidation, but by persuasion, example, and law.

Shirley Chisholm: “Instead of calculating the political costs of this or that policy, and of weighing favors of this or that group, depending on whether that group voted for me in 1968, I would remind all Americans at this hour of the words of Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided [against itself] cannot stand.”

Shirley Chisholm: “We Americans — We Americans are all fellow countrymen, one day confronting the judgment of history in our country. We are all God’s children and the will of each of us is as precious as the will of the most powerful General or corporate millionaire.

Shirley Chisholm: “Our will — Our will can create a new American in 1972: one where there’s freedom from violence and war at home and abroad; where there’s freedom from poverty and discrimination; where there exists at least a feeling that we are making progress and assurance for everyone”

Shirley Chisholm: “Those of you — Those of you who were locked outside of the convention hall in 1968, those of you who can now vote for the first time, those of you who agree with me that the institutions of this country belong to all of the people who inhabit it, those of you who have been neglected, left out, ignored, forgotten, or shunned aside for whatever reason: Give me your help at this hour!

Published by Neil Thanedar

Neil Thanedar is an entrepreneur, investor, scientist, altruist, and author. He is the founder & GP of Utopic, a pre-seed biotech VC fund investing in the future of science. He is also the founder & chairman of Air to All, a 501(c)3 nonprofit medical device startup, and Labdoor, a consumer watchdog with $7M+ in funding and 20M+ users. He previously co-founded Avomeen Analytical Services, a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016. He has also served as Executive Director of The Detroit Partnership and Senior Advisor to his father Shri Thanedar in his campaigns for Governor, State Representative, and US Congress in Michigan.