Quotes on Activism

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

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Action may not bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.

— William James

Well done is better than well said.

— Benjamin Franklin

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

— Edmund Burke

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

The most depraved type of human being . . . (is) the man without a purpose.

— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.

— John Stuart Mill, On Representative Government (1861)

Any man who inflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

— H. L. Mencken

Alone among the animals, man has the capacity to invent imaginary worlds, and is always making himself unhappy by trying to move into them.

— H. L. Mencken

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

— Ayn Rand

If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it.

— William James

The chief cause of problems is solutions.

— Eric Sevareid

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 every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.

— Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural address (1981)

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

— Confucius

Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.

— Thomas Carlyle

The most important of all revolutions, which may be dated from that day, I mean a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions.

— Edmund Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution

I have little belief in human progress. The human race is incurably idiotic. It will never be happy.

— H. L. Mencken

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

— Martin Luther King Jr.

The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.

— Louis D. Brandeis

If you want to accomplish something in the world, idealism is not enough you need to choose a method that works to achieve the goal.

— Richard Stallman

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

The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.

— Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.

— Vaclav Havel

Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.

— Ayn Rand

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

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

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

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

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

— Sonia Johnson

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

— Albert Einstein

If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.

— Friedrich Hayek

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

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

— Struthers Burt

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)

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

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

The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.

— George Eliot

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

I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.

— Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural address (1981)

A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.

— Thomas Jefferson

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

To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.

— Confucius

Those who excel in virtue have the best right of all to rebel, but then they are of all men the least inclined to do so.

— Aristotle

Old forms of government finally grow so oppressive, that they must be thrown off even at the risk of reigns of terror.

— Herbert Spencer, Essays on Education

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

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

— Dr. Samuel Johnson

The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny.

— Winston Churchill, Speech at Zurich University (19 September, 1946)

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

— Thomas Paine

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

— Bertrand Russell

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

If this be treason, make the most of it!

— Patrick Henry

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

— Thomas Paine

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

Never was anything great achieved without danger.

— Niccolò Machiavelli

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

— T.S.Eliot

Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world – and never will.

— Mark Twain

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

— Abraham Lincoln

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

No man can expect to be an innovator and, simultaneously, expect to find a ready-made audience sharing-the values he has not yet produced.

— Ayn Rand

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

— Thomas Paine

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

— Thomas Paine

All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don’t sit looking at it – walk.

— Ayn Rand

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.

— Bertrand Russell

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

The future is better than the past. Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands…with tools…with horse sense and science and engineering.

— Robert Heinlein, The Romantic Manifesto

To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.

— Winston Churchill

Before preparing to improve the world, first look around your own home three times.

— Chinese Proverb

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

— H. L. Mencken

At a time when most movements that are thought to be progressive advocate further encroachments on individual liberty, those who cherish freedom are likely to expend their energies in opposition. In this they find themselves much of the time on the same side as those who habitually resist change.

— John Stuart Mill, Why I Am Not a Conservative

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

— Dwight Eisenhower

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

— Thomas Paine

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

Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong – but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.

— Robert Heinlein, Double Star

Anyone who fights for the Future lives in it today.

— Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Those that say that individuals are not capable of changing anything are only looking for excuses.

— Vaclav Havel

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

— James Garfield

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

— Thomas Paine

Attempts to create heaven on earth invariably produce hell.

— Karl Popper

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

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

— Thomas Huxley

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

The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.

— Frederic Bastiat

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

— Benjamin Franklin

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

— H. L. Mencken

The best things in history are accomplished by people who get “tired of being shoved around.”

— Robert Heinlein, Have Space Suit—Will Travel

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, In a letter to William Stephens Smith on 13 November, 1878.

Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.

— Thomas Carlyle

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

— Henry Ford

Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision.

— Ayn Rand

There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor” on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.

— Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Lafayette (2 April 1790)

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

— Thomas Paine

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.

— Mark Twain

No great thing is created suddenly.

— Epictetus

Sober perseverance is more effective than enthusiastic emotions, which are all too capable of being transferred, with little difficulty, to something different each day.

— Vaclav Havel

The problem is not those who dream, but those who can only dream.

— Ayn Rand

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

— Albert Einstein

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

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

— Thomas Paine

It is an affront to treat falsehood with complaisance.

— Thomas Paine

It is the metaphysically given that must be accepted: it cannot be changed. It is the man-made that must never be accepted uncritically: it must be judged, then accepted or rejected and changed when necessary.

— Ayn Rand

What is a rebel? A man who says no.

— Albert Camus

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

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, aeroplanes, fortifications, and the like – they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armoury of potent and indestructible knowledge?

— Winston Churchill, 16 October, 1938

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.

— Aung San Suu Kyi

When you confront a problem you begin to solve it.

— Rudy Giuliani

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

They can conquer who believe they can.

— Virgil

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.

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

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

The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.

— William O. Douglas

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

— Thomas Paine

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

— Barry Goldwater

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

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

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

— Thomas Jefferson, 1785

In most things success depends on knowing how long it takes to succeed.

— Charles-Louis De Secondat

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

What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?

— Winston Churchill, Speech at Kinnaird Hall, Dundee, Scotland (10 October, 1908)

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

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

The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction [that] you give it.

— Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

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

— John F. Kennedy

Before beginning, plan carefully.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.

— Epictetus

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

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

— Henrik Ibsen