A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 16, 2008
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”

"I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” (or “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you") is a line from the mid-1970s, usually grouped with other great fabrications such as “The check is in the mail.” The word “federal” is sometimes added: “I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help you.”

President Ronald Reagan called the phrase “the nine most terrifying words in the English language” in 1986. The phrase and Reagan’s comments are still cited today, especially by conservative media commentators such as Sean Hannity.


Yale Book of Quotations
By Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 825:
George F. Will
U.S. journalist, 1941-
The American condition can be summed up in three sentences we’re hearing these days:
“Your check is in the mail.”
“I will respect you as much in the morning.”
“I am from the government and I am here to help you.”

Quoted in Frederick (Md.) News, 19 July 1976

6 May 1976, Arcadia Tribune, pg. D4, col. 4:
Rep. John Rousselot calls the following the three greatest fabrications of all time:
-- My check is in the mail.
-- I gave at the office.
-- I’m from the federal government. I’m here to help you.

Google Books
The Court of Private Land Claims:
“I’m from the Government and I’m Here to Help You”:
Inviolate Protection Or Inevitable Paternalism on the Frontier

By Jill L Marron
Published by (?)
April 23, 1982

Google News Archive
21 August 1986, Bryan (OH) Times, “Washington Window” by Helen Thomas (UPI White House Reporter), pg. 4, col. 5:
WASHINGTON (UPI)—President Reagan says he has “always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government an I’m here to help.’”

Google Books
The Executive’s Book of Quotations
By Julia Vitullo-Martin and J. Robert Moskin
Published by Oxford University Press US
1994
Pg. 130:
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
President RONALD REAGAN on assistance to farmers
(press conference in Chicago, August 2, 1986)

Google Books
Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader
By Dinesh D’Souza
Published by Free Press
1997
Pg. 53:
In his view, the most dangerous words in the English language were: “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Google Books
We’re from the government and we’re here to help you!:
After 28 Years Abroad, an American Conservative Comes Home to the Land of the Liberals ... and He’s Fighting Mad!

By James J. Winter, Ph.D.
Published by Insight Pub.
1998

Google Books
And I Quote: The Definitive Collection of Quotes, Sayings, and Jokes for the Contemporary Speechmaker
By Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans, Tripp Evans and Andrew Frothingham
New York, NY: Macmillan
2003
Pg. 262:
The nine most terrfiying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
-- Ronald Reagan

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Thursday, October 16, 2008 • Permalink