WPA Today   

Notable Quotes



WPA Poster

Notable Quotes ********************************************

“Tonight we are joined by members of four generations of the Cash family, to celebrate this great honor, this regeneration of the past, this preservation of its history for future generations; and this acknowledgement of the New Deal, and how in some ways my family exists because of that service.”
--Rosanne Cash, at the Johnny Cash Music Festival, shown on WHUT, Howard University Television, airdate: February 25, 2012.  Festival was designed to help preserve Johnny Cash’s boyhood home & community, Dyess, Arkansas—a New Deal planned community.

"The WPA was one of the most productive elements of FDR's alphabet soup of agencies because it put people to work building roads, bridges, and other projects...it gave men and women a chance to make some money along with the satisfaction of knowing they earned it."
--Ronald Reagan, in "Ronald Reagan: An American Life," by Ronald Reagan, New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1990 (p. 69 of 2011 paperback edition).
 
"Considered as a single unit, the total volume of WPA employment, during the first six years of its history, is sufficient to stagger even a wild imagination.  By contrast, the estimated number of man-years required to build the pyramids of Egypt--which have long been symbolic of gigantic undertakings--seems small."
--Donald S. Howard, in "The WPA And Federal Relief Policy," by Donald S. Howard, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1943, p. 531.  


"Never before in the history of the human race has a public works program, whose principal object was the mitigation of need due to unemployment, reached the magnitude of the Work Projects Administration.  This is true, however you measure it--by persons employed, money expended, or volume of results."

--Joanna C. Colcord, Director of the Charity Organization Department of the Russell Sage Foundation, 1943, in the book "The WPA and Federal Relief Policy" by Donald S. Howard.  

"Now, a lot of people remember it as boondoggles...raking leaves...Maybe in some places it was.  Maybe in the big city machines or something.  But I can take you to our town and show you things, like a river front that I used to hike through once that was a swamp and is now a beautiful park-like place built by WPA."

--Ronald Reagan, 1981.  From: William E. Leuchtenburg, "In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to George W. Bush,"  Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983 (p. 214 of 2001 paperback edition), citing the transcript of an interview between Ronald Reagan and historian David McCullough, December 1, 1981, in conjunction with a Parade magazine article by David McCullough, "The Legacy: The President They Can't Forget," January 31, 1982, pp. 4-6.

"The things they have actually accomplished all over America should be an inspiration to every reasonable person and an everlasting answer to all the grievous insults that have been heaped on the heads of the unemployed."
--Harry Hopkins, head of the WPA, 1936, in the book "American-Made" by Nick Taylor.  

"
We need a new WPA, modeled after the WPA of the Great Depression, to put jobless Americans to work."  
--Robert Reichformer U.S. Secretary of Labor, 2010 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/the-american-jobs-emergen_b_791812.html.

"A rational political system would long since have created a 21st-century version of the Works Progress Administration — we’d be putting the unemployed to work doing what needs to be done, repairing and improving our fraying infrastructure."

"The best way to solve this crisis is for the federal government to create a new national jobs program, similar to the innovative work programs created by President Roosevelt during the 1930s Great Depression."
--National Jobs For All Coalition, 2011, http://www.njfac.org/ff-plan.htm.

"You can make a pretty good case that just employing a lot of people directly would be a lot more cost-effective (than other types of stimulus spending); the WPA and CCC cost surprisingly little given the number of people put to work."  
--Paul Krugman, professor of economics, 2009 http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/why-not-a-wpa/.

"The country needs another Works Progress Administration (WPA II) to lift employment and the beaten-down spirits of some 25 million un- and under-employed workers and their 50 million and more dependents."  
--Bevis Longstreth, former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, 2011http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bevis-longstreth/works-progress-administra_b_811913.html.

"A new New Deal, equipped with an Obama-era version of the Works Progress Administration, could put millions back to work, modernize the country, nudge the economy towards recovery, and produce a barrage of working monuments. It would be a stimulus package that keeps on stimulating long into the future."  
--Justin Davidson, journalist for New York Magazine, 2008http://nymag.com/arts/architecture/features/52169/. 

"Every time I go over to Central Park, I walk into the Children's Zoo.  This was built during the Depression by WPA workers.  It's an absolutely lovely place.  I go into the park often.  And I cannot help remembering--look, this came out of the Depression.  Because men were out of work, because they were given a way to earn money, good things were created."
--Herman Shumlin, Broadway producer and director, in Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970).

"There is a social price to be paid for too much talent sitting at home, feeling isolated.  Bring back the WPA, Mr. President."                                                                --Jamie Stiehm, journalist, 2009, in "The Time Has Come to Reinvent the WPA," U.S. News Digital Weekly 1, no. 39: 18  

"Had it not been for Works Progress Administration airport work, air traffic in the United States would have been brought to a practical stop by the advent of the big ships."
--Gill Robb Wilson, then-president of the National Association of Aviation Officials, 1938, in Bonfires to Beacons: Federal Civil Aviation Policy Under the Air Commerce Act, 1926-1938, p. 374 (1989 reprint edition, paperback). 

Interesting quotes from popular film, television, and books:

"...dad worked for the Works Progress Administration, building roads and parks during the Depression. In those struggling times, it was the only work he could get...I always said if I could work as hard as my dad, I'd have no problem making it in this world. Dad left for work before sunrise, and he'd come home after sunset. When the WPA experience was over, he became a driver for companies that delivered bread, laundry and meat."
--Jim Otto, Hall of Fame football player from the Oakland Raiders, in Jim Otto: The Pain of Glory (1999), pp. 22-23.


While discussing a logging/lumber crew that went missing in the Pacific Northwest in 1994, "In 1934--long before anyone even knew what an eco-terrorist was--a WPA crew working that same area vanished without a trace.  Not one of those men was ever found or heard from again."
--Fox Mulder (actor David Duchovny), X-Files episode "Darkness Falls." Airdate April 15, 1994.  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  (Notice the date mistake; the WPA did not come into existence until 1935)

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