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Trust for Representative Democracy: Civic Educatio

Trust for Representative Democracy Quotes

Following is a collection of quotes from famous people about civic education, representative democracy or the duties of citizens in a democracy. Thanks to the Center for Civic Education-many of these quotes originally appear in their text, We the People...the Citizen and the Constitution. Contributions of new quotes are welcome and should be sent to karl.kurtz@ncsl.org.

 

Dwight Eisenhower “People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable. Actually, all human problems, excepting morals, come into the gray areas. Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters. ”
Edmund Burke "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”

Hubert H. Humphrey (March 1970)

"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, debate, and dissent."

George W. Bush (2001 Inaugural)

"We are bound by ideals that teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these ideals. Every citizen must uphold them.... I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens building communities of service and a nation of character."

Winston Churchill

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

Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men."

Margaret Mead

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States

"If you have a plan, we want to hear it. Tell your community leaders, your local officials, your governor, and your team in Washington. Believe me, your ideas count. An individual can make a difference."

Edmund Burke

"Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could do only a little."

George W. Bush (2001 Inaugural)

"Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos."

Thomas Jefferson (1820)

"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but inform their discretion."

James Madison (1788)

"A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."

Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

"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."

George Mason (1776)

"No free government, nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by...a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. "

Adlai Stevenson (1956)

"As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the lawgivers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end."

John F. Kennedy (1962)

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

John Adams (1765)

"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right...and a desire to know."

Louis Brandeis (1937)

"The only title in our democracy superior to that of President is the title of citizen."

James Madison, Federalist 10

"Pure democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

Jimmy Carter

"We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different dreams."

James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 1888

"There is in the American Government...a want of unity.... The Sailors, the helmsman, the engineer, do not seem to have one purpose or obey one will so that instead of making steady way the vessel may pursue a devious or zigzag course, and sometimes merely turn round and round in the water."

Abraham Lincoln

"What I want is to get done what the people desire to have done, and the question for me is how to find that out exactly."

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1756

"Civility costs nothing and buys everything."

Andrew Johnson, 1865

"The life of a republic lies certainly in the energy, virtue, and intelligence of its citizens."

Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

"Better use has been made of association and this powerful instrument of action has been applied for more varied aims in America than anywhere else in the world."

Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

"Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types-religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute....At the head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find an association."

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...."

Thomas Jefferson

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

James Madison

"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest....The...causes of faction are sown in the nature of man."

Lyndon Baines Johnson

"I am a compromiser and maneuverer. I try to get something. That's the way our system works."

Henry Clay

"Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people."

John Quincy Adams

"If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled."

John F. Kennedy

"Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to an untiring effort."

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."

Hubert H. Humphrey

"Surely anyone who has ever been elected to public office understands that one commodity above all others, namely the trust and confidence of the people, is fundamental in maintaining a free and open political system."

Garry Wills

"It's not healthy for a society if the people hate their own government."

Garry Wills

"Term limits mean that you don't trust the voters. 'Stop me before I vote again.'"

G.K. Chesterton

"Democracy is like blowing your nose. You may not do it well, but it's something you ought to do yourself."

William Jefferson Clinton, 2000

"I think sometimes our young people believe either that government is not a good thing to be involved in ... or that if they did get involved, what they did wouldn't make a difference. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are around here as a nation after more than 224 years because more than half the time more than half the people turned out to be right on the really big issues. There is no place in the world that is a better example of what free people can do when they work together. ... I frankly think that a lot of this fashionable cynicism is a kind of self-indulgent arrogance that has no place in America."

Montesquieu, 1748

"The tyranny of a prince is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy."

created October 2000
updated 5/6/09

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