Quotes I Like

wisdom of other people

Wisdom is Knowing to Listen

insights from thinkers throughout the ages

Quotations provide seeds for contemplation — starting points for everything from discussion to journals. I enjoy reading quotes and then attempting to write my own thoughts on a topic. Citing the statements of someone does not indicate anything more than intellectual curiosity.

Writing & Reading

I live for books.
— Thomas Jefferson

Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
— Don Marquis

Writing fiction has become a priestly business in countries that have lost their faith.
— Gore Vidal

It is with books as with men, a very small number play a great part: the rest are confounded with the multitude.

When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.
— Desiderius Erasmus

Never mind that most writers on the best-seller lists couldn’t put a well-formed sentence together if you gave them the glue, or that the so-called “serious” writers only write about writers writing stories about writers writing stories, the two coasts are still the cultural power centers of America: books, theater, and art in the East; movies, music, and TV in the West.
—Ian Shoales, “Bicoastal,” I Gotta Go, Putnam (1985).


Everyone judges plays as if they were very easy to write. They don’t know that it is hard to write a good play, and twice as hard and tortuous to write a bad one.
—Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860–1904) Letter, May 4, 1889

Speech & General Rhetoric

Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

Much speech is one thing, well-timed speech is another.
— Sophocles (497 – 405 B.C.)

Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener. The latter must prepare to receive it according to the motion it takes.
— Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

What is said is more important than who said it. — Anon.

On speaking, first have something to say, second say it, third stop when you have said it, and finally give it an accurate title.
— John Shaw Billings

To speak well supposes a habit of attention which shows itself in the thought; by langauge we learn to think and above all to develop thought.
— Carl Victor de Bonstetten

In order to speak short upon any subject, think long.
— H. H. Brackenridge

Speak softly and sweetly. If your words are soft and sweet, they won't be as hard to swallow if you have to eat them.
— Anon.

If you say what you think, don’t expect to hear only what you like.
— Malcolm Forbes

There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into your hearers.
— A. S. Gregg

The tongue is more to be feared than the sword.
— Japanese Proverb

Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.
— Thomas Jefferson

Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak, and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.
— Ben Jonson

Speech is the mother, not the handmaid, of thought.
— Karl Kraus

A speech without a specific purpose is like a journey without a destination.
— Ralph C. Smedley

It is not of so much consequence what you say, as how you say it. Memorable sentences are memorable on account of some single irradiating word.
— Alexander Smith

It is the first rule of oratory that a man must appear such as he would persuade others to be; and that can be accomplished only by the force of his life.
— Jonathan Swift

It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
— Mark Twain

There is much to be said for not saying much.
— Frank Tyger

Preach not because you have to say something, but because you have something to say.
— Richard Whately

Never rise to speak till you have somethign to say, and when you have said it, cease.
— John Witherspoon.

In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the coice of the multitude. Every man will speak as he thinks, or, more properly, without thinking, and consequently will judge of efforts without attending to their causes.
— George Washington


Prefer knowledge to wealth, for one is transitory, the other perpetual.
— Socrates

Much have I learned from my teachers, more from my colleagues, but most from my students.
— The Talmud

Science & Mathematics

If it cannot be expressed in figures, it’s not science; it is an opinion.
— Lazarus Long

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture.
— Bertrand Russell

Sans les mathématiques on ne pénètre point au fond de la philosophie. Sans la philosophie on ne pénètre point au fond des mathématiques. Sans les deux on ne pénètre au fond de rien.
— Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz



Human Nature

Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.
— Eric Hoffer

If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you, but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.
— Don Marquis (essayist, author)

If you can’t resist temptation, at least have it appraised.
— Orson Welles, as Harry Lime (“Lives of Harry Lime”)




Perfection is the ideal, but a barrier to done.
— Joseph M. Williams, Style (9th Ed)

Doing something well is better than waiting until you can do it perfectly.

We always over-estimate the things we can accomplish in a month and under-estimate what we can do in five years.

Only satisfied customers can give people job security. Not companies.
— Jack Welch, Former CEO, General Electric

If you have to keep thinking outside the box, maybe something is wrong with the box. (Sometimes it is the system that’s broken, not your ideas.)
— Paraphrase from Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw


[A] wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
— Thomas Jefferson, 1801; Inauguration Address

The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it.
— John Hay, 1872

America’s political system used to be about the pursuit of happiness. Now more and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered.
— Jonah Goldberg, 2007; Liberal Fascism, p. 20

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
— James Bovard

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
— Edward R. Murrow

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
— Goethe

It is not the responsibility of the government or the legal system to protect a citizen from himself.
— Justice Casey Percell

Can our form of government, our system of justice, survive if one can be denied a freedom because he might abuse it?
— Harlon Carter

We’d all like t’vote fer th’ best man, but he's never a candidate.
— Kin Hubbard (as “Abe Martin”)



Random Aphorisms

Aphorisms, those short sayings within which we are supposed to find greater meaning, have always appealed to me. While I might not find myself in complete agreement with the aphorisms I have selected for this page, they do give a general impression of my world-view. In fact, I carry a sheet of these with me.

Has anything you’ve done made your life better? — from American History X, Avery Brooks as Dr. Bob Sweeney.

Richard Bach

Yes, he is the author of pulp bubble-gum for the brain, but I like Richard Bach's philosophy. When I read his books in high school, and reread them in college, I found a bit of inner-peace. It was a bit disturbing to learn that he actually left a wife and family at one point, but good ideas can come from anyone — even an absent father.

  1. You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.
  2. The only thing that shatters dreams is compromise.
  3. Your only obligation in any lifetime is to yourself. Being true to anyone or anything else is not only impossible but the mark of a fake.
  4. Every person, all the events in your life are there because you have drawn them there.
  5. I allow the world to live as it chooses, and I allow me to live as I choose.
  6. The Golden Rule doesn't work. How would you like to meet a masochist who did unto others as he would have others do unto him?
  7. The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy.

More I Like...

Here are yet more aphorisms I appreciate.

  1. You owe nothing to anyone else until you borrow from them.
  2. Justice exists, but not within the written laws.
  3. Some people are more important than others; all men are not equal.
  4. All people are propelled by a form of greed, even if that greed is spiritual.
  5. You must accept the consequences of your actions, including the reactions of others.
  6. If you believe strongly enough in your self, some will believe in you... and you will believe in those few.
  7. If you commit a sin against another, then you should make penance.


The Reader’s Quotation Book: A Literary Companion. ed. Steven Gilbar. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1990.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. ed. Suzy Platt. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993.

The Writer’s Quotation Book: A Literary Companion. ed. James Charlton. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1991.

More Quotation Reference Works.

Verifying Quotes

I do my best to verify the sources of quotes, but have learned that misattribution and distortion are common problems. As quotes travel through time (and the Internet), they are sometimes altered. Examples of mistaken attribution are plentiful.

If you notice an error, let me know. I always appreciate getting information right.