Quotes on not speaking out


“Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Galatians 5:1 (New American Standard)

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

Edmund Burke (Irish politician and orator 1729-1797)

It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

Emiliano Zapata (Mexican revolutionary 1879-1919)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense”

Winston Churchill (British Orator, Author and Prime Minister
during World War II 1874-1965)

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Voltaire (French author 1694-1778)

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive … those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C. S. Lewis (English author 1898-1963)

“With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter’s definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. .A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.” (1965)

Stanley Milgram (American psychologist 1933–1984)

“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery.”

Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. (*) ME 1:193, Papers 1:125 (American Politician 1743-1826)

“When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaties and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stiring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader”

Plato (Greek Philosopher 427 B.C.-347 B.C. )

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.

John Quincy Adams (American President 1825-1829)

“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 Niemoller (German Pastor 1892 – 1984)

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Pioneering Aviator and Author June 22, 1906 – February 7, 2001)

Hi Robert,

Good to hear from you, thanks for the quotations. What usually motivates ‘speaking out’ and ‘not speaking out’? In my case both are usually motivated by attachment, aversion and ignorance. Attachment, for example, to concepts such as ‘justice’, ‘peace’, ‘liberty’, ‘equality’, “Buddhism”, ‘harmlessness’, etc. and of course aversion to their opposites. The roots of the problem (dukkha) that is, not the way out of it.

Happy New Year,


Disclaimer: This post motivated by attachment to the concept of ‘detachment conditioned by understanding’.
Agree mike
Happy new year!
Great posts, Robert. I love how you quoted Burke.

Here are a few more, mostly from the Founding Fathers of the United States, including the great James Madison, father of the Constitution (and heavily influenced by Burke).

“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” – The great James Madison

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” – Thomas Jefferson

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Question even the existence of a God; if there be one, he must approve of the homage of reason over that of blind-folded fear” – Thomas Jefferson

“Wherever there is interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done.” – James Madison

“As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other. ” – James Madison

“But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain. ” – James Madison

“The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of the blessing.”

– James Madison, letter to Littleton Dennis Teackle, March 29, 1826

“They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate.”

– James Madison, Federalist No. 14, November 30, 1787

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

– Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, December 23, 1791

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

– John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

– John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

“Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.”

– John Adams, letter to the young men of the Philadelphia, May 7, 1798

“Whilst the last members were signing it Doctr. Franklin looking towards the Presidents chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun.”

– James Madison, Farrand’s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, September 17, 1787


  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.