30 Famous Quotations

Matt Dunlap cartoon

Here is a collection of famous quotations about democracy, citizenship, freedom, liberty and civics. Select a favorite and then search either in the library or on the Internet to find out more about the person who said it and share what you find with your classmates.”


Winston Churchill

Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

Edmund Burke "Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could do only a little."
James Madison "The effect of [a representative democracy is] to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of the nation…”
Benjamin Rush "There is but one method of rendering a republican form of government durable, and that is by disseminating the seeds of virtue and knowledge through every part of the state by means of proper places and modes of education and this can be done effectively only by the aid of the legislature."
John Adams "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who, have a right …and a desire to know"
Thomas Jefferson

"That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part."

Dwight Eisenhower "Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men."
Eleanor Roosevelt "Our children should learn the general framework of their government and then they should know where they come in contact with the government, where it touches their daily lives and where their influence is exerted on the government. It must not be a distant thing, someone else's business, but they must see how every cog in the wheel of a democracy is important and bears its share of responsibility for the smooth running of the entire machine."
Aristotle "The basis of a democratic state is liberty.”
James Buchanan "I like the noise of democracy."
Jonathan D. Casper "The freedom to express varying and often opposing ideas is essential to variety of conceptions of democracy. If democracy is viewed as essentially a process – a way in which collective decisions for a society are made – free expression is crucial to the openness of the process and to such characteristics as elections, representation of interests, and the like.”
Alexis deTocqueville "Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
Robert F. Kennedy "At the heart of western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man…is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and abiding practice of any western society."
Alan Keyes "The act of voting is one opportunity for us to remember that our whole way of life is predicated on the capacity of ordinary people to judge carefully and well.”
Abraham Lincoln "Ballots are the rightful, and peaceful, successors of bullets, and that when ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be successful appeal, back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections."
Thomas Paine

"…the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.”

"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."

Franklin D. Roosevelt "The creed of our democracy is that liberty is acquired and kept by men and women who are strong and self-reliant, and possessed of such wisdom as God gives mankind – men and women who are just, and understanding, and generous to others -- men and women who are capable of disciplining themselves. For they are the rulers and they must rule themselves.”
Margaret Thatcher "All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail. It must be business as usual."
E.B. White "Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time."
John F. Kennedy "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
Mohandas K. Gandhi "To safeguard democracy the people must have a keen sense of independence, self-respect, and their oneness."
Thomas Jefferson "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
Benjamin Franklin "They that give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Henry David Thoreau "That government is best which governs least."
John Locke

"The people cannot delegate to government the power to do anything which would be unlawful for them to do themselves."

Lord Acton "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Isaac Asimov "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”
Karl Marx "If you can cut the people off from their history, then they can be easily persuaded."
Walt Whitman "Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruit in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between [people], and their beliefs – in religion, literature, colleges and schools – democracy in all public and private life…”