Quotations for Social Change

Part B — Quotes 170–303

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Nurturing Kind Hearts

170. I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism. — Charles Schwab [other]

171. Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it. — Harold S. Hulbert [other]

172. Expect people to be people. — Graffiti [133]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents



173. Only the truth is revolutionary. — Graffiti, Paris, May 1968 [64]

174. In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. — George Orwell [61]

175. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make thee mad. — Aldous Huxley [77]

176. All truth passes through three stages:
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
— Arthur Schopenhauer [165]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Education for Democracy

177. A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. — James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry 4 August 1822 [66]

178. Today the world is the victim of propaganda because people are not intellectually competent. More than anything the United States needs effective citizens competent to do their own thinking. — William Mather Lewis [201]

179. I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. — Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, 28 September 1820 [64]

180. Since a democratic society repudiates the principle of external authority, it must find a substitute in voluntary disposition and interest; these can be created only by education. — John Dewey [68]

181. Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like the evil spirits at the dawn of day. — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Pierre S. du Pont de Nemours, 24 April 1816 [69]

182. Which is the best government? That which teaches us to govern ourselves. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [69]

183. Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. — Henry Peter Brougham (1778–1868) [other]

184. One cannot impose a cooperative, democratic society on people — they must adopt it and claim it as their own. Activists who are truly progressive cannot use force or trickery; we can only serve as mentors and midwives, showing the way and facilitating the birth of a new society. Our means must reflect our desired ends if we want our means to lead to those ends. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [66]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

The Value of Education

185. Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. — H.G. Wells, The Outline of History, Ch. 15 (1920) [95]

186. Ideas are the factors that lift civilization. They create revolutions. There is more dynamite in an idea than in many bombs. — John H. Vincent [77]

187. We have come out of the time when obedience, the acceptance of discipline, intelligent courage and resolution, were most important, into that more difficult time when it is a person’s duty to understand the world rather than simply fight for it. — Ernest Hemingway [98]

188. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. — Derek Bok, President, Harvard University [120]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Progressive Educational Methods

189. You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself. — Galileo [77]

190. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. — Martin Luther King, Jr. [96]

191. Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire. — William Butler Yeats [96]

192. Interest is the greatest teacher. — Proverb [99]

193. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. — Mark Twain [other]

194. If we taught children to speak, they’d never learn. — William Hull [other]

195. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master. — Ben Jonson [103]

196. What you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say. — Ralph Waldo Emerson [111]

197. The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. — Amos Bronson Alcott [112]

198. They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. — Carl W. Buechner [125]

199. The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” — Maria Montessori, Italian educator (1870–1952) [125]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Schools Versus Prison

200. He who opens a school door, closes a prison. — Victor Hugo [19]

201. It costs the same to send a person to prison or to Harvard. The difference is the curriculum. — Paul Hawken [27]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Understanding and Learning from Others

Understanding Others

202. Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. — Proverb [15]

203. To understand everything is to forgive everything. — French Proverb [10]

204. I never met a man I didn’t like. — Will Rogers [10]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Diversity of Opinion

205. Freedom rings where opinions clash. — Adlai E. Stevenson [17]

206. A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side. — Joseph Addison, English poet [26]

207. I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me. — Dudley Field Malone [other]

208. It’s the not me in thee that makes thee so valuable to me. — Quaker Proverb [148]

209. Until you can see the truth in at least three sides of an issue, you probably don’t understand it. And until you can convincingly argue all three perspectives, you probably can’t work with a diverse group of people to find a mutually satisfactory solution. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [108]

210. There are two ways for me to win an argument: I can convince my opponents that I am right. Or they can convince me they are right; then when I adopt their perspective, I also become right. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [201]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Learning from Others

211. If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, 5 Feb 1675 [xii]

212. If I have seen further, it is by standing on the backs of the downtrodden masses. — Activist wit [xii]

213. Wise people seek out those who know more than they do… and steal their ideas. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [xii]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


214. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. — Thomas Huxley, letter to Charles Kingsley, 1860 [4]

215. The Ignorant know nothing. The Provincial know only the perspective of their own community. Traditionalists hear new ideas, but cling to those of their ancestors. Conformists learn of alternative perspectives, but embrace only the most conventional. Zealots know of other ideas, but accept only what they already believe. The Confused stumble across many perspectives, but don’t know what to believe. It is only the Explorers, the Curious Students, the Free-thinkers, the Scholars who seek out many perspectives and thoroughly investigate each one to dig out its truth. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [108]

216. Take from others what you want, but never be a disciple of anyone. — A. S. Neill, director of Summerhill School [112]

217. An ideology that cannot withstand intense challenge
is invariably anti-progressive. Through questioning,
ideas grow to be more robust and compelling.
Question Authority!
— Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [112]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Personal Aspects of Change Work

A Life of Purpose

218. Respectable men and women content with good and easy living are missing some of the most important things in life. Unless you give yourself to some great cause you haven’t even begun to live. — William P. Merrill [113]

219. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. — Robert Byrne [114]

220. One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others. — Lewis Carroll [227]

221. As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death. — Leonardo da Vinci [other]

222. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [other]

223. Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can. — Thomas Carlyle [other]

224. If your contribution has been vital there will always be somebody to pick up where you left off, and that will be your claim to immortality. — Walter Gropius (1883–1969), architect [189]

225. Do the best you can — you can’t do any better than that. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [72]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


226. The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. — Plato [76]

227. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. — Edmund Burke (1729–1797), British statesman and orator [200]

228. He who allows oppression, shares the crime. — Erasmus Darwin [other]

229. Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. — Paulo Freire [198]

230. The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. — Bertrand Russell [209]

231. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now — when? — Hillel [other]

232. Even if you’re on the right track — you’ll get run over if you just sit there. — Arthur Godfrey [other]

233. The meek shall inherit what’s left of the earth. — Graffiti [63]

234. In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade-unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade-unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up. — attributed to Rev. Martin Niemoller [208]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Courage to Work for Change

235. Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. — Anais Nin [91]

236. Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. — Mark Twain [other]

237. A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are for. — John A. Shedd [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Personal Preparation

238. To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to be in good physical condition. — Jawaharlal Nehru [102]

239. True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united. — Humboldt [104]

240. Let him that would move the world, first move himself. — Socrates [104]

241. Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. — Leo Tolstoy [109]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


242. Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one. — Thomas Carlyle [182]

243. There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order to things. — Niccolo Machiavelli [other]

244. In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. — Mark Twain, Notebook [167]

245. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. — George Bernard Shaw [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


246. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles,” Essays: First Series, 1841 [143]

247. The worst thing is to get involved with people who aren’t passionate about what they’re doing. — William Dafoe [184]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


248. By starving emotions we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them we become literal, reformatory and holier-than-thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it. — Joseph Collins [72]

249. A hearty laugh gives one a dry cleaning, while a good cry is a wet wash. — Puzant Kevork Thomajan [71]

250. I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
— William Blake [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


251. People are more fun than anybody. — Dorothy Parker [72]

252. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. — Bumpersticker [226]

253. He who laughs, lasts. — Office Graffiti [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


254. Cleverness is not wisdom. — Euripides [xviii]

255. God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. — Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer, 1934 [130]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Progressive Leadership

256. A leader is best
When people barely know he exists.
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worse when they despise him.
"Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you."
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves."
— Lao-tzu, The Way of Life According to Lao-Tsu (sic), an American version, by Wittern Bynner [82]

257. I don’t want you to follow me or anyone else… I would not lead you into [the] promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out. — Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926), American socialist [48]

258. Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. — Ralph Waldo Emerson [84]

259. Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. — Mark Twain [other]

260. Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. — Tom Landry [142]

261. If a better system is thine, impart it; if not, make use of mine. — Horace [191]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Solidarity / Unity

262. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. — Martin Luther King, Jr. [78]

263. We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. — Benjamin Franklin [149]

264. Together we stand, divided we freak out. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [148]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Working for Positive Change

Do Right

265. Be not simply good; be good for something. — Henry David Thoreau [other]

266. Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world. — Thomas Carlyle [118]

267. Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest. — Mark Twain, speech, Greenpoint Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, NY 1901 [65]

268. Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. — John G. Riefenbaker [other]

269. Associate reverently, as much as you can, with your loftiest thoughts. — Henry David Thoreau [other]

270. In your public work, don’t be afraid of exposure: If you do it, be proud of it. If you’re not proud of it, don’t do it. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [26]

271. May you live your life as if the maxim of your actions were to become universal law. — Immanuel Kant, Groundwork to a Metaphysics of Morals, Ch. 1, 1785 [131]

272. Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art,” Essays: First Series, 1841 [131]

273. Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example. — Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, Ch. 19, 1894 [80]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Fight for What’s Right

274. We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in. — Thomas Paine [203]

275. Not for ourselves alone, but for all humanity… Let us hasten to find the path that leads to liberty, safety, and peace for everyone. — Thomas Jefferson [11]

276. Give the gift that keeps on giving: a good society. Your grandchildren will be glad you did. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [207]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Inspiration / Hope

277. The difficult is done at once; the impossible takes a little longer. — Anthony Trollope, Phineas Redux, 1873 [xvi]

278. The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith. — Franklin Delano Roosevelt [xviii]

279. One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman: two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and the cause has victories tangible and real; and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question. — William Morris, “Art Under Plutocracy” [3]

280. Fortunately, many people would prefer to live a simple life in a good society than a life of riches and power in a horrible society. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [10]

281. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert F. Kennedy [135]

282. It is stupid to be naively hopeful, but it is also a mistake to underestimate the power of the human heart. When touched deeply and ignited to a feverish passion, people can hurl rivers into the air and entice mountains to dance. — Randy Schutt, Inciting Democracy [178]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


283. Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is the lightning that does the work. — Mark Twain [181]

284. Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible. — Graffiti [210]

285. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail. — Cassius [210]

286. The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. — Abraham Lincoln [210]

287. Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure. — George E. Woodberry [210]

288. People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. — John Newburn [190]

289. We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out. — Theodore Roosevelt [191]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


290. It won’t work. We know because we haven’t tried it. — English Proverb [197]

291. If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. — Henry Ford [204]

292. No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up. — Lily Tomlin [7]

293. A cynic is an idealist turned inside out. — Graffiti [210]

294. Every civilizing step in history has been ridiculed as “sentimental,” “impractical,” or “womanish,” etc., by those whose fun, profit or convenience was at stake. — Joan Gilbert [other]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Set Backs

295. Into each life some rain must fall. — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), poet  [xvi]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


Quotations and Words

296. A witty saying proves nothing. — Voltaire [xviii]

297. I hate quotation. — Ralph Waldo Emerson [xviii]

298. We are getting into semantics again. If we use words, there is a very grave danger they will be misinterpreted. — Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman testifying in his own defense at the Watergate hearings [199]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


299. Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers. — Charles W. Eliot, educator (1834–1926) [232]

300. The books which help you most are those which make you think the most. — Theodore Parker, American religious leader (1810–1860) [211]

301. If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. — Toni Morrison, speech [236]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents


302. Answers — 50 cents
Answers requiring thought — $1.00
Correct answers — $2.00
Dumb looks are still free.
— Office Graffiti [xx]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Misplaced Efforts

303. Insanity without ambition is like a machine gun without bullets. — Graffiti at Stanford University, 1990 [205]

 Back to Quotations Table of Contents

Back to Top