We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

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Probably the most famous Pogo quotation is "We have met the enemy and he is us." More than any other words written by Kelly, it perfectly sums up his attitude towards the foibles of mankind and the nature of the human condition.

The quote was a parody of a message sent in 1813 from U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry to Army General William Henry Harrison after the Battle of Lake Erie, stating "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." It first appeared in a lengthier form in A Word To The Fore, the foreword of the book The Pogo Papers, first published in 1953. Since the strips reprinted in Papers included the first appearances of Mole and Simple J. Malarkey, beginning Kelly's attacks on McCarthyism, Kelly used the foreword to defend his actions:

Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of a cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self-conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.

There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.


—Walt Kelly, June 1953

The finalized version of the quotation appeared in a 1970 anti-pollution poster for Earth Day, and was repeated a year later in the strip reprinted here. The slogan also served as the title for the last Pogo collection released before Kelly's death in 1973, and of an environmentally-themed animated short on which Kelly had started work, but which ill health prevented him from finishing.

In the 1972 film The War Between Men and Women, Dr. Joyce Brothers misattributes the line to Charlie Brown of Peanuts.

In 1998, OGPI ("Okefenokee, Glee, and Perloo, Incorporated," the corporation formed by the Kelly family to administer all things Pogo) dedicated a plaque in Waycross, Georgia, commemorating the quote.

Perhaps the second best-known Walt Kelly quotation is another one of Pogo's philosophical observations: "Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent." Kelly's widow Selby re-used the line as a tribute, in a poignant daily strip which ran on Christmas day, 1973 - two months after Kelly's death.


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