A plea from Dr. Anthony Fauci for people to “wear a mask” to slow the spread of the coronavirus tops a Yale Law School librarian’s list of the most notable quotes of 2020.

What You Need To Know

  • In an annual tradition, a librarian from Yale Law School has released the top ten most notable quotes from the past year

  • Fred Shapiro, an associate director at Yale Law School library, first published "The Yale Book of Quotations" in 2006

  • Shapiro said he picks quotes that are not necessarily admirable or eloquent, but rather because they are famous or particularly revealing of the spirit of the times

  • "Wear a mask" and "I can't breathe" topped Shapiro's list of the most notable quotes of 2020

The list assembled by Fred Shapiro, an associate director at the library, is an annual update to “The Yale Book of Quotations,” which was first published in 2006.

Also on the list is “I can’t breathe,” the plea George Floyd made repeatedly to police officers holding him down on a Minneapolis street corner.

Several quotes from the 2020 presidential campaign appear on the list, including Joe Biden telling a student: “You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier.”

Shapiro said he picks quotes that are not necessarily admirable or eloquent, but rather because they are famous or particularly revealing of the spirit of the times.

Here are the top ten quotes on Shapiro’s list this year:

1. “Wear a mask.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci, CNN interview, May 21

In a year marked by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense that the top quote would come from the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Near the end of May, Dr. Fauci appeared on CNN to discuss COVID-19 and its health implications. At the time, the doctor encouraged Americans to go outside for the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday weekend, so long as they followed proper social distancing protocols. 

"Go out, wear a mask, stay 6 feet away from anyone so you have the physical distancing, and go out. Go for a run. Go for a walk. Go fishing,” Fauci told CNN. “As long as you're not in a crowd and you're not in a situation where you can physically transmit the virus, and that's what a mask is for, and that's with the physical distance.” 

By the end of the same month, over 1.7 million Americans had contracted the disease, with 103,700 reported deaths from the virus, according to CDC data. Over six months later, nearly 15 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, with at least 284,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

2. “I can’t breathe.” — George Floyd, plea to police officer, Minneapolis, May 25

George Floyd, a Black man and 46-year-old father, died in May after a Minneapolis police officer placed a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Video of Floyd’s pleas with officers before his death went viral, prompting worldwide protests and calls for police reform and an end to systemic racism. 

Four officers have since been charged in connection with Floyd’s death. Former officer Derek Chauvin, who was captured on video with his knee on Floyd’s neck, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Former officers J. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four were fired.

3. “One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear,” President Donald Trump, referring to the coronavirus in remarks at an African American History Month reception at the White House, Feb. 27

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump repeatedly assured Americans that the virus would “disappear.” 

One such remark came in late February during a reception at the White House. On Feb. 26, the day before the president’s comments, the United States had recorded its “first non travel–related” COVID-19 case, according to the CDC.

“We have done an incredible job,” President Trump said of his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re going to continue. It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.”

Joe Biden has repeatedly taken aim at President Trump’s claims that coronavirus would disappear, and largely framed his own campaign for the White House around the administration’s perceived failings in containing the spread of the disease. 

4. “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” — Trump, in remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force news briefing, April 23

In late April, President Donald Trump claimed during a press briefing that research was underway into the effect disinfectants have on COVID-19, wondering aloud if they could be injected into people. 

“Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” Trump asked. “Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.”

Trump’s offhand comment got intense blowback from doctors and other health officials. It also prompted blunt warnings from the makers of popular commercial products.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s office tweeted a reminder to all Americans: “PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/ medication to yourself or a loved one.”

The White House said the president’s comments had been misrepresented by the media, and Trump said he had been speaking sarcastically. But a transcript of his remarks suggested otherwise.

5. “I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.” — White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, at her first press briefing, May 1

Kayleigh McEnany vowed in May not to lie to reporters from the podium as she made her debut at the first White House briefing by a press secretary in more than a year.

“I will never lie to you,” McEnany told reporters. “You have my word on that.” But the briefing that followed included several misstatements and mischaracterizations nonetheless.

It was the first such briefing since March 11, 2019, when Sarah Sanders took to the podium for the first time in more than a month and was pressed on comments Trump reportedly made at a fundraiser claiming that Democrats hated Jewish people. Sanders left her post that summer, and her successor, Stephanie Grisham, never held a briefing during her entire nine-month tenure.

6. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, statement dictated to granddaughter Clara Spera, September

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known for her fierce advocacy for women’s rights, passed away at 87 years old on Sept. 18, 2020. Soon before her death, Ginsburg told her granddaughter Clara Spera her “most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” as was first reported by NPR

Ginsburg’s dying wish was not to be — the Senate rapidly confirmed President Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett, likely cementing a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court for years to come. 

Barrett was Trump’s third appointee to the Supreme Court: Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed in April 2017, and Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed in October 2018.

7. “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” — Joe Biden, in an interview with “The Breakfast Club” radio program, May 22

The remarks given by then-presidential hopeful Joe Biden came amid a year of rising racial tensions, and would go on to haunt the candidate throughout much of his campaign. 

Biden’s comments came at the end of an at times tense interview with Charlamagne Tha God, and he apologized soon after for his “cavalier” remarks.

During ABC’s town hall on Oct. 15, a Black student named Cedric Humphrey said that young Black voters were torn over whom to vote for, with some conflicted between voting for Trump or not voting at all.

"So my question for you then is, besides 'you ain't black,' what do you have to say to young black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them," he asked Biden.

Biden, in a long and winding answer, touched on the criminal justice system, suggesting it needed to be made “fair” and “more decent” before moving on to an assortment of economic and educational policies, adding that Black Americans need to be given tools to help generate wealth, including increased loans for Black-owned businesses and homeowners.

8. “The science should not stand in the way of this.” — McEnany, referring to school reopenings in a news briefing, July 16

As cases of the coroanvirus soared throughout the summer months, the Trump administration pushed for schools to be able to open in-person for the fall semester.

Kayleigh McEnany maintained that the decision to reopen schools should be driven by science — but argued that doing so meant bringing students back to classrooms.

When the president “says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this,” she said in late July, adding: “The science is on our side here, and we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science, open our schools.”

In the months since, only a handful of states have required at least a partial closure of schools as long as local coronavirus infections remain above certain levels.

And as the surge in coronavirus cases brings a new round of school closings, lawsuits by parents have followed in states including New York, California and Pennsylvania, arguing that remote learning is falling short of state education standards and causing harm to students.

9. “You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier.” — Biden, in a remark to a student at a campaign event, Hampton, N.H., Feb. 9

This heated comment came from then-candidate Joe Biden during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire in early February. 

Then-21-year-old Madison Moore asked Biden about the viability of his campaign following a lackluster performance at the Iowa caucus, where the former vice president placed fourth among the Democratic candidates. 

Biden responded by asking Moore if she had ever been to a caucus; when Moore said she had, Biden shot back: “No, you haven’t. You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier.” 

The answer was met with a mixed response — the audience laughed, and Biden conceded that Moore’s inquiry was “an honest question” by the end of his response. 

But Moore told the Macon Telegraph she found the response “insulting,” adding: “It was kind of humiliating to be called a liar on national TV by the former vice president.”

10. “We are all Lakers today.” — then-Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, in a remark to reporters after the death of Kobe Bryant, Orlando, Fla., Jan. 26

The world collectively mourned basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his young daughter, Gianna Bryant, following their tragic deaths in a helicopter crash alongside seven other people in late January. 

Rivers, who at the time was coaching the Lakers' cross-town rivals, the Clippers, summed up the feelings of many in an emotional address to reporters following news of Bryant’s passing. 

"People think because you compete against each other that you don't have a relationship and you don't like them," Rivers said at the time. "I think it's the exact opposite. Sometimes the more you compete, the more respect you have for the opponent. That's the way I felt with Kobe."

Certainly, memorials for Bryant and his daughter weren’t limited to Los Angeles — fans across the world, from Columbia to China, publicly celebrated the athletes’ lives.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.