Quotes to Remember 

Author: Samuel Metz 

Date: 01/23/07


Quotes are deceptive. Taken out of context, they may imply something totally different from the original intent. Sometimes we mistake wit, irony, or wordplay for wisdom. The rhythm and rhyme of a phrase lend a false sense of truth.

Still, quotes provoke thought. They present poignantly something it might us many paragraphs to express. Sometimes we simply respond, "I wish I had said that."

With these caveats, here are favorites of mine taken from several years of reading. They cover many topics. May you enjoy and use them in good health.


Mario Puzo (Source: Godfather Legacy by Harlan Lebo, p 3)

"I was 45 & tired of being an artist...it was time to grow up & sell out."


Attributed to Stalin (Stalin edited by TH Rigby, p167)

"There is nothing sweeter in life than to bide the proper moment for revenge, to insert the knife, to turn it around, and to go home for a good night's sleep."


Harry Truman (The Quotable Harry S Truman edited by T.S. Settel) 

"It's almost impossible for a man to be President of the United States without learning something." 

"A President may dismiss the abuse of scoundrels, but to be denounced by honest men, honestly outraged, is a test of greatness that none but strongest men can survive."


William R. Davie (Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen)

"It is much easier to alarm people than inform them."


Benjamin Franklin (Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen)

"To get the bad customs of a country changed, and new ones, though better, introduced, it is necessary first to remove the prejudices of the people, enlighten their ignorance, and convince them that their interests will be promoted by the proposed changes; and this is not the work of a day."


J.M. Thompson (Robespierre & the French Revolution, on Maximilien Robespierre, p33, 53)

"He was feared more than admired, & admired more than liked." 

"The real problem before the legislator is to govern without oppression."


Richard Hofstadter (American Political Thought, p 149) 

"...a strategy dictated by absolute moral intransigence, however defensible in logic, was not so effective in reality..."


John Adams (John Adams by McCullough, p 373) 

"A man must be sensible of the errors of the people & upon his guard against them & must run the risk of their displeasure sometimes or he will never do them any good in the long run"


Ben Franklin (Benjamin Franklin by Carl van Doren, p. 695) 

[ On John Adams] "He means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses."


Alexander Hamilton (Alexander Hamilton by Robert Chernow, p 171)

"The inquiry constantly is what will PLEASE, not what will BENEFIT the people."


Steven D. Goldfien, MD (American Society of Anesthesiologists Newsletter, July 2005 p 32) 

[Referring to a period in Chinese history with application to 2005] "...philosophical differences over right and wrong coupled with the controversial behavior of its leader have led to the moralization of politics; this in turn has led to gridlock in the government. Instead of viewing opposition as reasoned disagreement among reasonable people, political factions, intoxicated with the righteousness of their own beliefs, now view political rivals as evil people with evil ideas."


Fritz Stern (Foreign Affairs 2005 (May/June); 84 (#3):14 p16) 

"...civic passivity & willed blindness were necessary preconditions for the triumph of National Socialism..."


Jimmy Carter (Presidential farewell address, 1981) 

"The national interest is not always the sum of all our single or special interests."


Cardinal Richelieu ( ~1624)

"If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him"


Arthur Cebrowski, USN (New York Times Magazine The fighting next time, by Bill Keller Mar 10, 2002, p 32) 

"Historically, victors don't learn nearly as well as losers"


Pastor Martin Niemoller (1930s) 

"In Germany they first came for the Communists & I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews & I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists & 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."


Albert Camus (Preface to Caligula

"Yet I have little regard for an art that deliberately aims to shock because it is unable to convince."


Harry S Truman (in Beinhart , New York Times Magazine 30 April 2006) 

"We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."


Bernard Lewis (in Faoud Ajami, In appreciation - a sage in Christendom)

"Make no mistake, those who are unwilling to confront the past will be unable to understand the present and unfit to face the future."


John Severinghaus, MD 

"To every problem, there is a solution: neat, plausible, & wrong."


Bertolt Brecht (Writing the Truth - Five Difficulties, appendix to Black Cat edition of Galileo

"That which is sure is not sure. As things are, they shall not remain." 

"Many of the persecuted lose the capacity for seeing their own mistakes." 

"The man who does not know the truth expresses himself in lofty, general, and imprecise terms." 

"But the truth cannot merely be written. It must be written for someone, someone who can do something with it."


George Bernard Shaw (Man of Destiny, quoted in The Story of English, by McCrum) 

"There is nothing so bad or so good that you will not find an Englishman doing it; but you will never find an Englishman in the wrong. He does everything on principle. He fights you on patriotic principles; he robs you on business principles; he enslaves you on imperial principles."


Samuel Metz 

"The United States tolerates all religions that tolerate all religions."


Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (Atlantic Monthly, Nov 1973) 

Quote: (Speaking about Nixon) "I would argue that what the country needs today is a little serious disrespect for the office of the presidency; a refusal to give any more weight to a president's words than the intelligence of the utterance, if spoken by anyone, would command; an understanding of the point made so aptly by Montaigne: 'Sits he on never so high a throne, a man stills sits on his bottom.'"


Lee Hamilton (ex-Congressman, Indiana 1965-1999)

"At the end of the day, the responsibility we have placed on our politicians is to make the country work - not to satisfy their own, partisan outlooks on the world."


Peter Weiss (Marat/Sade, scene 25, Corday's second visit, Sade speaks) 

That's how it is, Marat 

That's how she sees your revolution 

They have toothache 

and their teeth should be pulled 

Their soup's burnt 

They shout for better soup 

A woman finds her husband too short 

she wants a taller one 

A man finds his wife too skinny 

he wants a plumper one 

A man's shoes pinch 

but his neighbour's shoes fit comfortably 

A poet runs out of poetry 

and desperately gropes for new images 

For hours an angler casts his line 

why aren't the fish biting 

And so they join the Revolution 

thinking the Revolution will give them everything 

A fish 

A poem 

A new pair of shoes 

A new wife 

A new husband 

and the best soup in the world 

So they storm all the citadels 

and there they are 

and everything is just the same 

No fish biting 

Verses botched 

Shoes pinching 

A worn and stinking partner in bed 

and the soup burnt 

and all that heroism 

which drove us down to the sewers

Well we can talk about it to our grandchildren 

If we have grandchildren"


Walter Van Tilburg Clark  (The Ox Bow Incident

"Night's like a room. It makes the little things in your head too important." 

"I couldn't help thinking about what Davies had said on getting angry enough not to be scared when you knew you were wrong."


Winston Churchill (Wicked Wit edited by Enright)

"It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also important to be right."


John LeCarre (Introduction to The Philby Conspiracy, p 4) 

"From his father, Kim [Philby] acquired ... the Establishment's easy trick of rationalising selfish decisions and dressing them in the clothes of a higher cause;"

"But let us be fair in this respect: no secret service can be more clear-headed than its government. Everything rests upon a clear-cut statement of requirements by those who formulate the nation's policy. If the Secret Service is properly used, it is a fighting arm, an extension of Government policy. But in times of dismay and national corruption it sinks swiftly into intrigue, slovenly security and inter-departmental rivalry."


H.C. Kee (Jesus in History, p252) 

"We must constantly remind ourselves that devotion to fact is a relatively modern dimension of human thought..."


Edward R. Morrow (Quoted by I. Ozernoy in the Atlantic Monthly, November 2006 p 30)

[Referring to damage control & his role as chief of USIA 1961] "If they want me in on the crash landings, I better damn well be in on the takeoffs."


Donald Calne, MD, neurologist (in Marketing that Matters by Chip Conley and Eric Friedenwald-Fishman, p112) 

"The essential difference between emotion & reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusion."


Henry Chadwick (The Early Christian Church, p107) 

"Accordingly, Origen concludes that the prime purpose of scripture is to convey spiritual truth, and that the narrative of historical events is secondary to this."

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