"A liberal is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air” is the usual form of this saying, but “liberal” is often replaced with other terms and “planted firmly” can be reversed to “firmly planted.” In a radio address on October 26, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “I am reminded of four definitions: A radical is a man with both feet firmly planted—in the air.”
“Radical” was replaced with “idealist” by 1945 and “liberal” by 1946.
Google News Archive
27 October 1939, Bend (OR) Bulletin, pg. 3, col. 6:
Terms in 55 Words
Washington, Oct. 27 (OP)—In 55 words, President Roosevelt passed on to the nation today thumbnail definitions of radicals, conservatives, reactionaries and liberals.
“A radical,” he said, “is a man with both feet firmly planted—in the air.
“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk.
“A reactionary is a somnambulist walking backwards.
“A liberal is a man who uses his legs and his hands at the behest of his head.”
William Sylvis, pioneer of American labor:
A study of the labor movement during the era of the civil war
By Jonahtan Grossman
New York, NY: Columbia University Press
An idealist has been cleverly defined as a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.
8 November 1946, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, pg. A6, col. 2:
What Is a Liberal?
(The Atlanta Journal)
On putting the question, “What is a liberal?” to several of his friends, a writer for the Christian Science Monitor received various answers. An arch conservative said, “A liberal is one who has both feet firmly planted in the air.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, My Boss
By Grace G. Tully
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
He had a favorite definition he often related when some caller used the terms “liberal’ or “reactionary.”
“You know,” he would say, “there seems to be a great flexibility in the meanings of these political words so I’d like to tell you what I think they mean. A reactionary is a somnambulist walking backwards. A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who has never learned to walk forward. A radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air. And a liberal is a man who uses his legs and, simultaneously, his head.”
Google News Archive
4 May 1950, Rock Hill (SC) Herald, “Definition Of A ‘Liberal,’” pg. 2, col. 1:
But we have just heard a definition of “liberal,” as used by the liberals of recent variety, which ought to end the confusion.
A liberal, says this definition, “is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.”—Chattanooga, Tenn., News-Free Press.
7 October 1955, Springfield (MA) Union, “Walter Winchell on Broadway,” pg. 11, col. 5:
How times change: Newsweek quoted a diplomat’s definition of an egghead: “A person with both feet planted firmly in the air”...The old, old definition of a Communist.
Air pollution and climate change:
The biological impact
By Alan Wellburn
“A radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air”
spoken by Franklin D. Roosevelt (broadcast 26 Oct. 1939).
Business Wit & Wisdom
By Richard S. Zera
Washington, DC: Beard Books
A liberal is one who has both feet planted firmly in the air. —Adlai Stevenson
Political Science For Civil Services Preliminary Examination
New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill
“A man who has both feet planted firmly in the air can be safely called a liberal as opposed to the conservative who has his feel firmly in his mouth.”—Barzun
New York City • Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (0) Comments • Tuesday, August 17, 2010 • Permalink