Susan Stamberg: Pick Yourself Up

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's Susan Stamberg noticed President Obama has twice quoted a famous lyric from an old popular song to rally Americans during these tough economic times. She chats with guest host David Greene about the tune.

SUSAN STAMBERG: David, you know, I noticed something in the town hall meeting that the president did this week in Missouri that just might help that woman that you spoke with.


And here's NPR's Susan Stamberg in the studio. What did you notice, Susan? Something he said about the economy or preventing flu?

STAMBERG: No. Just for the second time now in a big public appearance, Barack Obama quoted a grand old popular song.

President BARACK OBAMA: So today on my 100th day in office, I've come back to report to you, the American people, that we have begun to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and we've begun the work of remaking America.

(Soundbite of applause and cheering)

STAMBERG: And you know he did the same thing in January in his inaugural address.

President OBAMA: Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

STAMBERG: So clearly, this little riff is embedded in Barack Obama's memory bank. And you really have to wonder, is this a song that maybe his grandmother used to sing to him? And David, maybe next time you see him you could ask the president.

GREENE: I'll try to do that.

STAMBERG: That's very kind of you. The words are by Dorothy Fields. They were written to music by Jerome Kern for the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie �Swing Time.� This was one of their best dancing films. It was a romp back in 1936. It was smack in the middle of the Depression. Ginger sings it as a morale booster to Fred.

(Soundbite of movie, �Swing Time�)

Ms. GINGER ROGERS (Actress): (Singing) Don't lose your confidence if you slip. Be grateful for a pleasant trip and pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.

STAMBERG: And in those dark Depression days, it became a kind of rally the troops ditty. Over the years, mothers would sing it to their children after the kids had playground accidents or took some spills. So now, here is our new president dipping into an old tune two times to rally 21st century spirits. You really do have to appreciate a fellow who leans on the great American songbook for inspiration.

(Soundbite of movie, �Swing Time�)

Ms. ROGERS: (Singing) Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.

STAMBERG: Would you care to dance, David?

GREENE: I would. Excuse me for a moment, I'm about to have the honor of dancing with NPR's Susan Stamberg.

(Soundbite of music and tapping)

GREENE: Susan, you're a great dancer. Okay, hold on one second. One second. I've got to tell them. One more thing, if you want to see an audio slide show of the whole trip that I did for 100 Days, go to

You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from