Tag Archives: Ann Richards

Life Isn’t Fair, But Government Must Be

Ann Richards? John F. Kennedy? Apocryphal?
annrichards01Dear Quote Investigator: There is a new one-woman play titled “ANN” about Ann Richards who was the Governor of Texas in the 1990s. The theatrical presentation contains a memorable line about her philosophy of government. I am not sure if I remember it exactly, but the statement is similar to this:

Life isn’t fair, but government should be.

Did Ann Richards say this? When? When I searched I found some people claiming JFK said this.

Quote Investigator: Ann Richards was sworn in as governor of Texas on January 15, 1991, and she delivered a speech during the inauguration festivities that was reported on the next day in the San Antonio Express-News. The expression she spoke differed by one word from the phrase given in the query: 1

Focusing on her campaign themes of “A New Texas” and giving the government back to the people, Richards said, “There is nothing more fundamentally important to me than the understanding that this administration exists to serve the taxpayers.”

“Life isn’t fair, but government must be,” she said.

Interestingly, the Houston Chronicle also reported on the inauguration festivities and presented a line spoken by Richards; however, the wording was slightly different. The word “absolutely” was included: 2

Richards, in summoning the slain president’s memory, said: “Years ago, John Kennedy said that ‘Life isn’t fair.’ Life is not fair, but government absolutely must be.”

QI has not heard an audio recording of the speech by Richards and does not know which transcript is accurate. It is also conceivable that Richards employed the saying more than once on inauguration day. If she did say it twice, perhaps both versions were accurate.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1991 January 16, San Antonio Express-News, “New governor vows return of government for the people” by Bruce Davidson, Page 1A, San Antonio, Texas. (NewsBank Access World News)
  2. 1991 January 16, Houston Chronicle, Section: A, “New governor greets the people – Richards, Bullock pledge a ‘New Texas’ by R.G. Ratcliffe and Clay Robison, Quote Page 1, Houston, Texas. (NewsBank Access World News)

The Rooster May Crow, But It’s the Hen Who Lays the Egg

Margaret Thatcher? Ann Richards? Joel Chandler Harris? Uncle Remus? African-American folklore? Anonymous?

thatcheregg01Dear Quote Investigator: Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, passed away recently, and I was reminded of a pointed saying that is credited to her. Here are three versions:

  • The cock may crow, but it’s the hen who lays the egg.
  • It is the hen that lays the egg, and the rooster crows about it.
  • Roosters crow; hens deliver.

Did she use this expression, and did she coin it?

Quote Investigator: Margaret Thatcher did employ this saying, but it has a very long history, and she did not craft it originally. In 1989 the Sunday Times of London published an appraisal of a biography of Thatcher, and the reviewer, Robert Skidelsky, stated that he heard her use a version of the expression in 1987. Boldface has been added to some passages below: 1

Above all, Thatcher never hid her belief that women are better than men at getting things done. She brought to government “the tendency of the indefatigable woman to suppose that nothing would be done right, unless she personally saw to it”. “The cocks may crow, but it’s the hen that lays the egg,” I heard her proclaim at a private dinner party in 1987. Men are the talkers, the dreamers: Women are the doers.

The above citation was included in “Cassell’s Humorous Quotations” compiled by Nigel Rees. 2

A precursor saying using a different phrasing was in circulation by 1659 as noted in an entry in “The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs”: 3

The cock crows but the hen goes. 1659: Howell, 19. 1670: Ray, 5. 9.

A strong conceptual match written in heavy dialect was printed in 1881 in “Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-lore of the Old Plantation” by Joel Chandler Harris. Harris became famous in the 1800s recording and printing tales from the African-American oral tradition: 4

Rooster makes mo’ racket dan de hin w’at lay de aig.
[The rooster makes more racket than the hen that laid the egg.]

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1989 April 9, The Sunday Times (of London), Section: G: Books, Housewife Superstar by Robert Skidelsky, (Book Review of “One of Us: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher”), Page G1, column 4, London, England. (NewsVault GaleGroup; also Academic OneFile GaleGroup; special thanks to Jonathan Betz-Zall, Mary Somers, and Dan J. Bye)
  2. 2001, Cassell’s Humorous Quotations, Compiled by Nigel Rees, Section: Noise, Page 305, (Cassell, London), Sterling Pub. Co., New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 2006, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs, Entry: Cock, Quote Page 105, Column 1, Wordsworth Editions Limited, London. (Google Books Preview)
  4. 1881, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-lore of the Old Plantation by Joel Chandler Harris, Plantation Proverbs, Quote Page 151, D. Appleton and Company, New York. (Google Books full view) link