Quotations for Social Change

Part A — Quotes 1–169

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Visions of a Good Society

Striving Toward Dreams

1. As long as I can conceive something better than myself I cannot be easy unless I am striving to bring it into existence or clearing the way for it. — George Bernard Shaw [xv]

2. There is nothing like dream to create the future. Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow. — Victor Hugo, poet, novelist, and dramatist (1802–1885) [213]

3. There are those, I know, who will reply that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is. It is the American Dream. — Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982), American poet, writer, Librarian of Congress [xvi]

4. You see things, and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were, and I say “Why not?” — George Bernard Shaw, “Back to Methuselah” [80]

5. As recent students of utopia have articulated, vigorous utopian thinking sketches models of a peaceable kingdom, points us toward society’s repressed possibilities, enables us to see more clearly actual tendencies, both positive and negative, strengthens our grounds for rejecting existing social forms, reactivates lost dreams and longings, and encourages political action. — Ronald Aronson, Beyond Marxism, 1995, p. 267 [212]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


6. Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done. — Louis D. Brandeis [5]

7. It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow. — Robert H. Goddard, pioneering rocket scientist [7]

8. That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another. — Adlai Stevenson [209]

9. Every noble work is at first impossible. — Thomas Carlyle [209]

10. What exists, is possible. — Kenneth Boulding [7]

11. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. — Thomas Paine, The Crisis Papers, 1783 [xiii]

12. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. — Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author [8]

13. As anyone knows who has been part of a movement, a demonstration, a campaign, or a strike, struggles undertaken for the most limited and prosaic goals have a way of opening the most profound and lyrical sense of possibility in their participants. To experience even briefly a movement’s solidarity, equality, reciprocity, morality, collective and individual empowerment, reconciliation of individual and group, is to have a foretaste of the peaceable kingdom… Once we have experienced solidarity, we can never forget it. It may be short-lived, but its heady sensations remain. It may be still largely a dream, but we have experienced that dream. It may seem impossible, but we have looked into the face of its possibilities. — Ronald Aronson, After Marxism, 1995, p. 278  [xvii]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Aspects of a Good Society

The Golden Rule

14. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. — The Golden Rule [9, 13]

15. Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. — Confucius, Analects 15.23 [9]

16. This is the sum of duty: do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain. — The Mahabharata, 5,1517 [9]

17. What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary. — Talmud, Shabbat 31a [9]

18. As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. — Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12 (RSV) [9]

19. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. — Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39 (KJ) [9]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Freedom / Liberty

20. The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being. — Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia, 1925 [15]

21. Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. — George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, 1903, Maxims for Revolutionists: “Liberty and Equality” [26]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Equality / Fraternity / Compassion

22. What I mean by Socialism is a condition of society in which there should be neither rich nor poor, neither master nor master’s man, neither idle nor overworked, neither brain-sick brain workers nor heart-sick hand workers, in a word, in which all men would be living in equality of condition, and would manage their affairs unwastefully, and with the full consciousness that harm to one would mean harm to all — the realization at last of the meaning of the word commonwealth. — William Morris, “Justice”(1884) [16]

23. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. — The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776 (Thomas Jefferson) [17]

24. The world has more than enough resources to accelerate progress in human development for all and to eradicate the worst forms of poverty from the planet. Advancing human development is not an exorbitant undertaking. For example, it has been estimated that the total additional yearly investment required to achieve universal access to basic social services would be roughly $40 billion, 0.1% of world income, barely more than a rounding error. That covers the bill for basic education, health, nutrition, reproductive health, family planning, and safe water and sanitation for all. — United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 1998 [6]

25. It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy and the handicapped. — Hubert H. Humphrey, speech at the dedication of the Hubert H. Humphrey building, Washington, DC, 4 November 1977 [243]

26. I’m not at all contemptuous of comforts, but they have their place and it is not first. — E. F. Schumacher [14]

27. The good of the people is the highest law. — Cicero [13]

28. When human rights conflict with property rights, I must choose humanity. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [21]

29. What is more difficult, to think of an encampment on the moon or of Harlem rebuilt? Both are now within the reach of our resources. Both now depend upon human decision and human will. — Adlai E. Stevenson [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Real Patriotism

30. Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right. — Carl Schurz, speech to the Anti-Imperialist Conference, Chicago, Illinois, Oct. 17, 1899 [147]

31. He loves his country best who strives to make it best. — Robert Ingersoll, speech, New York, May 29, 1882 [xix]

32. This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. — Abraham Lincoln [other]

33. My country is the world, and to do good is my religion. — Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1792, pt ii, ch. 5 [xix]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Promoting the Public Good

34. It is the duty of the government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right. — William E. Gladstone, British prime minister [244]

35. A good society enables and encourages everyone to practice her best behavior. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [18]

36. Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship. — James Russell Lowell [other]

37. A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation. — James Freeman Clarke (1810–1888), Unitarian clergyman, writer [42]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Democracy (General)

38. The problem of democracy is not the problem of getting rid of kings. It is the problem of clothing the whole people with the elements of kingship. To make kings and queens out of a hundred million people! That is the problem of American democracy. — F. C. Morehouse [xiii]

39. Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people. — Harry Emerson Fosdick [144]

40. You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution. — Gilbert K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles, 1909 [138]

41. Democracy is not a spectator sport. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [17]

42. Concentrated power can easily be captured and diverted to pernicious ends; democratic power, because it is dispersed, is more secure and resilient. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [118]

43. Every man has the right to be heard; but no man has the right to strangle democracy with a single set of vocal chords. — Adlai E. Stevenson, speech in New York City, 28 August 1952 [243]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Democracy (Majority Rule / Compromise)

44. The voice of the majority is no proof of justice. — Johann von Schiller [26]

45. Nothing is more odious than the majority, for it consists of a few powerful leaders, a certain number of accommodating scoundrels and submissive weaklings, and a mass of men who trot after them without thinking, or knowing their own minds. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [27]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Aspects of a Bad Society

Poverty / Inequality / Overwork

46. The child was diseased at birth, stricken with a hereditary ill that only the most vital men are able to shake off. I mean poverty — the most deadly and prevalent of all diseases. — Eugene O’Neill, playwright [240]

47. Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. — Will Rogers [20]

48. The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. — Lily Tomlin [37]

49. We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing. — Office Graffiti [54]

50. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. — Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854, “Economy” [51]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


51. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. — World War II General Omar Bradley [4]

52. The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. — Martin Luther King, Jr. [other]

53. In this society, it is considered immoral to walk around wearing no clothes, but perfectly acceptable to build weapons of mass destruction. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [25]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


54. Slavery was once considered “the American way.”— Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [10]

55. Whenever people say “We mustn’t be sentimental,”you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add “We must be realistic,”they mean they are going to make money out of it. — Brigid Brophy [other]

56. Reporter: Mr. Gandhi, What do you think of Western Civilization?
Mr. Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea! [18]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Obstacles to Progressive Change

Adverse Power Structure


57. We have the best government money can buy. — Graffiti [38]

58. If voting could change anything, it would be illegal. — Anarchist Graffiti [62]

59. The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected. — attributed to Will Rogers [145]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

The Power Structure

60. As long as our social order regards the good of institutions rather than the good of men, so long will there be a vocation for the rebel. — Richard Roberts [79]

61. The business of politics consists of a series of unsentimental transactions between those who need votes and those who have money… a world where every quid has its quo. — Don Tyson, Senior Chair of the Board, Tyson Foods, Inc. quoted in National Review, February 20, 1995 [239]

62. On Politics: When our people get to the point where they can do us some good, they stop being our people. — M. Stanton Evans, quoted by Alan L. Otten, The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 1975 [63]

63. Here are three Constitutional changes that would forever change the scale of politics and economics in America. Three four-word amendments that could change the shape of our future. “Corporations are not people.” “Money is not speech.” “Waste is not commerce.” If the Supreme Court had interpreted the Constitution as they should have, and if they had adhered to the will of the people, these amendments would not be necessary. But it didn’t and they are. — David Morris, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, interview, Positive Alternatives, Center for Economic Conversion, 8:3 (Spring 1998), p. 9 [241]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

The Power Elite

64. The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through. — Alexis de Tocqueville [60]

65. The owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States. Their corporations, banks, and agribusinesses come together as a corporate community that dominates the federal government in Washington. Their real estate, construction, and land development companies form growth coalitions that dominate most local governments. Granted, there is competition within both the corporate community and the local growth coalitions for profits and investment opportunities, and there are sometimes tensions between national corporations and local growth coalitions, but both are cohesive on policy issues affecting their general welfare, and in the face of demands by organized workers, liberals, environmentalists, and neighborhoods. — William Domhoff, Who Rules America: Power and Politics in the Year 2000, p. 1 [36]

66. We have a governing system of the power elite, by the power elite, and largely for the power elite. Excluded from the decision arena, most ordinary people are relegated to watching silently from the sidelines as elite interests dictate the contours of their lives. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [38]

67. The public be damned! — Railroad baron William H. Vanderbilt, (1821–1885) quoted by Melville E. Stone, head of the Associated Press, Fifty Years as a Journalist [38]

68. It is privilege that causes evil in the world, not wickedness, and not men. — Lincoln Steffens, “Under the Kremlin,” The Freeman Magazine, 1920 [1]

69. When politicians and pundits say the American people want free trade, capital gains tax reductions, and less government regulation, it makes no sense. Most people couldn’t care less about these things. But if you substitute the phrase “the power elite” for “the American people," the meaning becomes clear. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [38]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Wealth Disparity

70. No one can earn a million dollars honestly. — William Jennings Bryan [39]

71. Behind every great fortune there is a crime. — Honore de Balzac [39]

72. We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both. — Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis [240]

73. The more heavily a man is supposed to be taxed, the more power he has to escape being taxed. — Graffiti [other]

74. We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless. — U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, letter to Col. William F. Elkins, 21 November 1864 [241]

75. There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts. — George Matthew Adams [other]

76. Gross Inequity is Indefensible
There is no reasonable justification for one person to make as much money in a few days as another earns in a lifetime. No matter how smart, beautiful, refined, charismatic, brave, clever, educated, experienced, or hard working, no human being deserves to receive five thousand times as much money as another. But billionaires in our society today typically realize more return on their investments in just two days than someone paid the minimum wage earns in fifty years of hard work.

Our economic system rewards luck, inheritance, chicanery, and raw power. It scarcely rewards effort and usually discounts virtue. In defending this absurd system, apologists can ultimately cite only its supremacy and invincibility: it exists and so far, no one has been able to change it, therefore it must be worthy. Skewed political and social relations rest on similarly specious logic and equally lame excuses. They too are indefensible in a civilized society. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [41]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


77. Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone. — Sir Maynard Keynes, economist [20]

78. Under capitalism, it’s dog eat dog. Under Communism, it’s just the opposite. — Polish Joke [43]

79. The American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it Capitalism, call it what you like, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it. — Al Capone, American gangster, 1929 interview, quoted by Claud Cockburn, In Time of Trouble, 1956 [199]

Economic Responsibility

80. So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not. — economist Milton Friedman, ChemTech, 1974 [242]

81. Goods produced under conditions which do not meet a rudimentary standard of decency should be regarded as contraband and ought not to be able to pollute the channels of interstate commerce. — President Roosevelt in a message to Congress on the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act [242]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


82. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. — President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1961 [25]

83. It is the habit of every aggressor nation to claim that it is acting on the defensive. — Jawaharlal Nehru [241]

84. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China, I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. — Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, speech delivered in 1933 [41]

85. Might doesn’t determine who is right, only who is left. — Bumpersticker [51]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


86. When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.
— Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian Archbishop [41]

87. It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. — Voltaire [219]

88. No other offense has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed. — Clarence Darrow [42]

89. Help the police. Beat yourself up! — Anarchist Graffiti [42]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Destructive Cultural Conditioning

90. Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners. — Mark Twain [44]

91. No one is born a bigot. — Bumpersticker [5]

92. There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if only you begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. — Arthur Schopenhauer [44]

93. Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards. — Jesuit Maxim, recorded in Lean’s Collectanea vol. 3 (1903) [44]

94. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. — English Proverb [66]

95. The most important factor for the development of the individual is the structure and the values of the society into which he was born. — Erich Fromm [44]

96. People in groups tend to agree on courses of action which, as individuals, they know are stupid. — Graffiti [43]

97. Distrust all men in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) [245]

98. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? — Alexander Solzhenitsyn [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Dysfunctional Emotional Conditioning

99. Many people truly believe they are stupid, ugly, or worthless because they were told this repeatedly throughout their childhoods. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [45]

100. The floggings will continue until morale improves. — Office Graffiti [46]

101. Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart. — Graffiti [45]

102. The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge to conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation. — Alfred Adler (1870–1937), Austrian psychiatrist [46]

103. Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change. — Office Graffiti [46]

104. One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear. — Friedrich Nietzsche [71]

105. Human Being
Contents: 100% Pure Human Being
Care Instructions: Hand wash with mild soap, towel dry.
Regularly shower with warm affection. Leave self-worth intact.
Use no bleach. Do not tumble, squeeze, or wring dry.
— Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [45]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Widespread Ignorance

106. The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so. — Josh Billings [47]

107. You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising budget is big enough. — former Republican political campaign consultant Ed Rollins to columnist Frank Rich, August 6, 1996 after publication of Rollin’s book Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms [41]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Misdirected Change Efforts

108. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. — Abraham Maslow, Pearls of Wisdom [96]

109. Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards. — Vernon Sanders Law, “How to be a Winner,” This Week [48]

110. After suffering years of frustration, many progressive activists are content merely to “make a statement” instead of actually being heard or to be heard rather than having influence or to have influence instead of having decision-making power or to seize decision-making power rather than creating a true democracy of empowered citizens. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [48]

111. Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim. — George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905–06 [49]

112. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. — Proverb [50]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Moving Forward


113. If we don’t change direction, then we’re likely to end up where we’re headed. — Graffiti [60]

114. No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, turn back. — Turkish Proverb [62]

115. "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?"
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland [67]

116. If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. — Abraham Lincoln [34]

117. More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. — Woody Allen, “My Speech to the Graduates,” Side Effects, 1980 [178]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


118. In the long run, men hit only what they aim at… they’d better aim at something high. — Henry David Thoreau [196]

119. Aim for excellence, not perfection. — Proverb [196]

120. Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. — Jonathan Kozol, On Being a Teacher, 1981 [169]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Steps Forward

121. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. — Lao-Tsu [xv]

122. I walk slowly, but I never walk backward. — Abraham Lincoln [170]

123. The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready. — Henry David Thoreau [184]

124. Steps in a project:
1. Wild enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Total confusion
4. Search for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Promotion of nonparticipants
— Office Graffiti [186]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Strategy for Change

Planning for Change

125. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau [239]

126. Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary. — Robert Louis Stevenson [other]

127. Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play. — Immanuel Kant [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Fundamental Change

128. Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed. — Irene Peter [4]

129. All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward. — Ellen Glasgow [other]

130. There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. — Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854, “Economy” [48]

131. Charity sees the need, not the cause. — German Proverb [other]

132. Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. — John Muir [49]

133. Sorry, we are too busy mopping the floor to turn off the faucet. — Office Graffiti [274]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


134. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. — Lord Acton, letter to Mandell Creighton, April 1887 [60]

135. Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will. — Frederick Douglass [79]

136. Power without responsibility is oppressive.
Responsibility without power is depressing.
— Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [82]

137. The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. — Alice Walker [91]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Witholding Consent

138. I am your king, and you’d better do what I say or else I can’t be king anymore. — cartoonist B. Kliban [88]

139. Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come. — Carl Sandburg, The People, Yes [43]

140. He that complies against his will
Is of his own opinion still.
— Samuel Butler (1612–1680), Hudibras, 3, 3, 547 [88]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Nonviolent Action

141. In this age of the rule of brute force, it is almost impossible for anyone to believe that anyone else could possibly reject the law of the final supremacy of brute force. — Mohandas Gandhi [87]

142. There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit. — Napoleon Bonaparte [65]

143. Let me say, at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. — Che Guevara [88]

144. The Goal is Positive Change
Something seems wrong to most people engaged in struggle when they see more people hurt on their own side than on the other side. They are used to reading this as an indication of defeat, and a complete mental readjustment is required of them. Within the new terms of struggle, victory has nothing to do with their being able to give more punishment than they take (quite the reverse); victory has nothing to do with their being able to punish the other at all; it has to do simply with being able, finally, to make the other move… Vengeance is not the point; change is.
— Barbara Deming, “On Revolution and Equilibrium,” We Are All Part of One Another: A Barbara Deming Reader [91]

145. Tips for Action
Re-direct your anger into positive action.
Convert your fear into excitement.
Stand tall on your principles.
And don’t forget to have fun!
— Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [91]

146. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. — John Fitzgerald Kennedy [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Cultural Change

147. Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. — UNESCO Constitution, 1946 [9]

148. The great law of culture is to let each become all that he was created capable of being; expand, if possible to his full growth; resisting all impediments, casting off all foreign, especially noxious adhesions, and show himself in his own shape and stature, be those what they may. — Thomas Carlyle [70]

149. I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth, if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives. — Leo Tolstoy [47]

150. Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time. — Mark Twain [69]

151. To get the bad customs of a country changed and new ones, though better, introduced, it is necessary first to remove the prejudices of the people, enlighten their ignorance, and convince them that their interests will be promoted by the proposed changes; and this is not the work of a day. — Benjamin Franklin (1781) [129]

152. To reform a man, you must begin with his grandmother. — Victor Hugo [206]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Effort, Persistence, and Endurance

153. By the fall of drops of water, by degrees, a pot is filled. — The Hitopadesa [73]

154. Energy and persistence conquer all things. — Benjamin Franklin [73]

155. The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%. — Andrew Carnegie [132]

156. Victory belongs to the most persevering. — Napoleon Bonaparte [152]

157. A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. — Max Planck, A Scientific Autobiography, 1949 [172]

158. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill… Great works are performed, not by strength, but endurance. — Samuel Johnson [176]

159. Light is the task where many share the toil. — Homer [73]

160. No social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals. — Martin Luther King, Jr. [other]

161. Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. — Thomas A. Edison [other]

162. The only time you don’t fail is the last time you try anything — and it works. — William Strong [207]

163. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. — Thomas Jefferson [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Pace of Change

164. This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar” lecture at Harvard, 1837 [85]

165. Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste. — Benjamin Franklin [189]

166. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. — Albert Einstein [189]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Miscellaneous Change

167. Hey buddy, can you spare some social change? — Bumpersticker [131]

168. The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators. — Edward Gibbon, English historian (1737–94) [75]

169. An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come. — Victor Hugo [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Continue to Part B — Quotes 170–303

Back to Top