Quotations about   cowardice

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It’s a funny thing, the less people have to live for, the less nerve they have to risk losing — nothing.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Moses, Man of the Mountain, ch. 2 (1939)
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Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 36, epigraph (1897)
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Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Under the Dome (2009)
Added on 12-Oct-16 | Last updated 12-Oct-16
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We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, that’s not cowardly. Stupid maybe, but not cowardly.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Politically Incorrect (17 Sep 2001)

This controversy over this comment resulted in the series being cancelled.
Added on 6-Jul-16 | Last updated 6-Jul-16
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When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in. … Who will our invaders be? From whence will they come?

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
Letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (Jul 1923)
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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The brave only know how to forgive; it is the most refined and generous pitch of virtue human nature can arrive at. Cowards have done good and kind actions, cowards have even fought, nay some times, even conquered; but a coward never forgave. It is not in his nature; the power of doing it flows only from a strength and greatness of soul, conscious of its own force and security, and above the little temptations of resenting every fruitless attempt to interrupt its happiness.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1786) Anglo-Irish novelist, Anglican clergyman
Sermon 12, “Joseph’s History Considered”
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Added on 15-Jan-16 | Last updated 15-Jan-16
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Commonly they whose tongue is their weapon, use their feet for defense.

Philip Sidney (1554-1586) English poet, courtier, scholar, and soldier
(Attributed)
Added on 6-Nov-15 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
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A brave man is sometimes a desperado: a bully is always a coward.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796-1865) Canadian politician, judge, humorist
Sam Slick’s Wise Saws and Modern Instances, Vol. 1 (1853)
Added on 4-Nov-15 | Last updated 4-Nov-15
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The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.

[Nisi impunitatis cupido retinuisset, magnis semper conatibus adversa.]

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
Annals, Book 15, 50 (AD 117)

Referring to Subrius Flavus’ thought of assassinating Nero while the emperor sang on stage.Alt. trans.: "But desire of escape, foe to all great enterprises, held him back."
Added on 21-Jul-15 | Last updated 21-Jul-15
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There is — in world affairs — a steady course to be followed between an assertion of strength that is truculent and a confession of helplessness that is cowardly.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
State of the Union Address (2 Feb 1953)
Added on 7-May-15 | Last updated 7-May-15
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My greatest fear has always been that I would be afraid — afraid physically or mentally or morally and allow myself to be influenced by fear instead of by my honest convictions.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
If You Ask Me (1946)
Added on 2-Apr-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Europe … have totally mistaken our character. Accustomed to rise at a feather themselves, and to be always fighting, they will see in our conduct, fairly stated, that acquiescence under wrong, to a certain degree, is wisdom, and not pusillanimity; and that peace and happiness are preferable to that false honor which, by eternal wars, keeps their people in eternal labor, want, and wretchedness.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to James Madison (23 Mar 1815) [ME 14:290]
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Added on 24-Mar-15 | Last updated 24-Mar-15
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There is nothing that makes more cowards and feeble men than public opinion.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)
Added on 22-Aug-14 | Last updated 22-Aug-14
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Everything is un-American that tends either to government by a plutocracy, or government by a mob. To divide along the lines of section or caste or creed is un-American. All privilege based on wealth, and all enmity to honest men merely because they are wealthy, are un-American — both of them equally so. Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood — the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Letter to S. Stanwood Menken (10 Jan 1917)
Added on 29-Jan-14 | Last updated 15-Jun-16
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To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. The oppressed must never allow the conscience of the oppressor to slumber. Religion reminds every man that he is his brother’s keeper. To accept injustice or segregation passively is to say to the oppressor that his actions are morally right. It is a way of allowing his conscience to fall asleep. At this moment the oppressed fails to be his brother’s keeper. So acquiescence — while often the easier way — is not the moral way. It is the way of the coward.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Stride Toward Freedom, ch. 11 “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression” (1958)
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Added on 6-Dec-11 | Last updated 4-Jul-17
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On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it is politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it is popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Speech, Santa Rita, Calif., (14 Jan 1968)

Recording (at 10:22). King reused speech elements frequently. The same passage can be found in "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution", sermon at the National Cathedral, Washington, DC (31 Mar 1968).
Added on 2-Nov-10 | Last updated 6-Apr-18
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Mankind is naturally divided into three sorts; one third of them are animated at the first appearance of danger, and will press forward to meet and examine it; another third are alarmed by it, but will neither advance nor retreat, till they know the nature of it, but stand to meet it. The remaining third will run or fly upon the first thought of it.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
(Attributed)

In R. W. Emerson, Journal (Aug 1851).
Added on 26-Aug-09 | Last updated 10-Jul-16
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Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1965) American politician (US Senator, Maine)
Speech, Westbrook Junior College (7 Jun 1953)
Added on 7-Oct-08 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) American author and poet.
“Protest,” Poems of Problems (1914)

Mistakenly attributed to Abraham Lincoln by Douglas MacArthur in a 1950 speech, and frequently since then.
Added on 21-Nov-05 | Last updated 25-May-16
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Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose application of the word.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Tragedy of Pudd’n’head Wilson, ch. 12, epigraph (1894)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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