When composer Igor Stravinsky was fifty-seven, he settled in the United States and a year later decided to apply for American citizenship. He made an appointment to see the appropriate official. At his first interview the official asked the famous composer his name. "Stra-vin-sky," he replied, speaking each syllable distinctly. "You could change it, you know," suggested the official.
During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln had occasion at an official reception to refer to the Southerners rather as erring human beings than as foes to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked him for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. "Why, madam," said Lincoln, "do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?
Questioned by the British television interviewer David Frost about his approval of a plan of action that entailed such criminal ingredients as burglary and the opening of other people's mail, Richard Nixon replied, "Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
Although failing fast, [former U.S. president] John Adams was determined to survive until the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — July 4, 1826. At dawn on that day he was awakened by his servant, who asked if he knew what day it was. He replied, "Oh, yes, it is the glorious Fourth of July. God bless it. God bless you all." He then slipped into a coma. In the afternoon he recovered consciousness briefly to murmur, "Thomas Jefferson lives." These were his last words. Unknown to him, Thomas Jefferson had died that same day.
During a recital in Berlin, Andrés Segovia's guitar was heard to emit a loud cracking sound. Segovia rushed offstage and, cradling his instrument, kept repeating, "My guitar, my guitar." It was soon learned that the man who had built the guitar had died in Madrid at the exact moment in the concert that Segovia's guitar had split.