Quotes on Activism

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.

— Bertrand Russell

You may think your actions are meaningless and that they won’t help, but that is no excuse, you must still act.

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.

— T.S.Elliot

The chief cause of problems is solutions.

— Eric Sevareid

I love agitation and investigation and glory in defending unpopular truth against popular error.

— James Garfield

To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.

— Abraham Lincoln

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

— Thomas Paine

Let them call me a rebel and I welcome it; I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of demons should I make a whore of my soul.

— Thomas Paine

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

— Robert F. Kennedy

An individual, thinking himself injured, makes more noise than a State.

— Thomas Jefferson, 1785

Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.

— Thomas Sowell

Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession —their ignorance.

— Hendrick van Loon

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has!

— Margaret Meade

One man can completely change the character of a country, and the industry of its people, by dropping a single seed in fertile soil.

— John C. Gifford

If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable.

— John F. Kennedy

Noncooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Men are failures not because they are stupid but because they are not sufficiently impassioned

— Struthers Burt

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

— Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.

— Thomas Paine

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.

— Dr. Samuel Johnson

Those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

— J.K. Rowling

If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.

— Henry Ford

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

— Edmund Burke

Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived have forced me to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions.

— Thomas Jefferson

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

— Thomas Paine

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason.

— Thomas Paine

The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism…. It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.

— George Washington

You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.

— Henrik Ibsen

Attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell.

— Karl Popper

We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather bed.

— Thomas Jefferson

Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends… when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object.

— Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine

A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.

— Thomas Jefferson

The soft-minded man always fears change. He feels security in the status quo, and he has an almost morbid fear of the new. For him, the greatest painis the pain of a new idea.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

— Elie Wiesel

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it cost nothing to be a patriot.

— Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904

Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.

— Thomas Carlyle

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

— John Adams, February 13, 1818

I wish that some way could be found to add up all the staggering costs imposed on millions of ordinary people, just so a relative handful of self-righteous environmental cultists can go around feeling puffed up with themselves.

— Thomas Sowell

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.

— Thomas Huxley

This country belongs to the people and whenever they shall grow weary of their government they can exercise their constitutional right to amend it, or revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it.

— Abraham Lincoln

Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive.

— Ayn Rand

It doesn’t take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause.

— H. L. Mencken

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent … the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.

— Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States, United States Supreme Court (1928)

If one does not carefully trace the problems back to their roots in a previous intervention, it is very easy to believe that yet another intervention is just the ticket for rectifying them.

— Gene Callahan

If this be treason, make the most of it!

— Patrick Henry

As for Doing-good, that is one of the professions which are full. Moreover, I have tried it fairly, and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution.

— Henry David Thoreau

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success and more dangerous to carry through, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has against him those who benefited from the old system; while those who should benefit from the new are only lukewarm friends, being suspicious, as men generally are, of something new and not yet experienced. In speaking of innovations, it is first necessary to establish whether the innovators depend upon the strength of others or their own…in the first case, things always go badly for them, in the second, they almost always succeed. From this comes the fact that all armed prophets were victorious and the unarmed came to ruin.

— Niccolò Machiavelli

It is an affront to treat falsehood with complaisance.

— Thomas Paine

Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice. And . . . moderation in the pursuit of Justice is no virtue.

— Barry Goldwater

Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.

— Thomas Sowell

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

— H. L. Mencken

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.

— Thomas Paine

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

— Benjamin Franklin

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants is the liberty of appearing.

— Thomas Paine

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Stephens Smith, quoted in Padover’s Jefferson On Democracy

One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.

— Thomas Sowell

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters.

— Frederick Douglass

If you really want to engage in policy activity, don’t make that your vocation. Make it your avocation. Get a job. Get a secure base of income. Otherwise, you’re going to get corrupted and destroyed.

— Milton Friedman

My country is the world. My religion is to do good.

— Thomas Paine

The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

We are descended in spirit from revolutionaries and rebels — men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.

— Dwight David Eisenhower

One determined person can make a significant difference; a small group of determined people can change the course of history.

— Sonia Johnson

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

— Martin Niemoeller, From the Kirchenverwaltung der Evangelischen Kirche in Hessen and Darmstadt

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

— Albert Einstein

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any reason but because they are not already common.

— John Locke, Essay concerning Human Understanding, 1690

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

— Thomas Paine

It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.

— Robert Jackson, United States Supreme Court Decision: American Communications Association v. Douds

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.

— Thomas Paine

The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.

— Louis D. Brandeis

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

— Thomas Paine
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