Quotations by Schlesinger, Arthur


What higher obligation does a President have than to explain his intentions to the people and persuade them that the direction he wishes to go is right? Politics in a democracy is, at the end, an educational process.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“A Clinton Card, So Far,” New York Times (11 Apr 1993)
Added on 26-Jul-12 | Last updated 31-Mar-14
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The first rule of democracy is to distrust all leaders who begin to believe their own publicity.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“On Heroic Leadership,” Encounter (Dec 1960)
Added on 13-Apr-10 | Last updated 13-Apr-10
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If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision, courage. These things are rarely produced by committees. Everything that matters in our intellectual and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience in a room by himself.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)
Added on 7-Apr-14 | Last updated 7-Apr-14
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The present, as historians well know, re-creates the past. This is partly because, once we know how things have come out, we tend to rewrite the past in terms of historical inevitability.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus (Spring 1971)
Added on 18-Feb-11 | Last updated 18-Feb-11
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Saints can be pure but statesmen must be responsible. As trustees for others, they must defend interests and compromise principles. In politics, practical and prudential judgment must have priority over moral verdicts.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Necessary Amorality of Foreign Affairs,” Harper’s (Aug 1971)
Added on 16-Jul-14 | Last updated 16-Jul-14
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By ideology I mean a body of systematic and rigid dogma by which people seek to understand the world — and to preserve or transform it.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The One Against the Many,” Paths to American Thought, ed. Schlesinger and Morton White (1963)
Added on 15-Dec-10 | Last updated 15-Dec-10
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It is this belief in absolutes, I would hazard, that is the great enemy today of the life of the mind. This may seem a rash proposition. The fashion of the time is to denounce relativism as the root of all evil. But history suggests that the damage done to humanity by the relativist is far less than the damage done by the absolutist — by the fellow who, as Mr. Dooley once put it, “does what he thinks th’ Lord wud do if He only knew th’ facts in th’ case.”

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Opening of the American Mind,” New York Times (23 Jul 1989)
Added on 9-Apr-10 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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Nations follow their historic interests rather more faithfully than they do their ideologies.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy, 1941-1966, ch. 7 (1967)
Added on 9-Apr-12 | Last updated 9-Apr-12
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Clarity in language depends on clarity in thought.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
Interview with Brian Lamb, C-SPAN (10 May 1998)
Added on 7-Apr-17 | Last updated 7-Apr-17
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