Quotations about   heroism

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There’s nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you’re so great your name will never be forgotten and who’s that great? The most important thing is your life, little guys. You’re worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don’t let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we’ve got to fight for liberty, or whatever their word is. There’s always a word.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Johnny Got His Gun (1938)
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Added on 6-Mar-19 | Last updated 6-Mar-19
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Heroism, the Caucasian mountaineers say, is endurance for one moment more.

George Kennan (1845-1924) American explorer, journalist, activist, lecturer
Letter to Henry Munroe Rogers (25 Jul 1921)
Added on 28-Dec-16 | Last updated 28-Dec-16
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The grandest of heroic deeds are those which are performed within four walls and in domestic privacy.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
(Attributed)

In Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
Added on 13-Jul-16 | Last updated 13-Jul-16
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Are there no ideals more stirring than those of martial glory? Is this generation conscious of calls to the service of native land in ways no more worthy than the way of taking a musket and killing somebody? You ask, in the language of Prof. James, for a moral equivalent for war. A patriot needs only look about to find numberless causes that ought to warm the blood and stir the imagination. The dispelling of ignorance and the fostering of education, the investigation of disease and the searching out of remedies that will vanquish the giant ills that decimate the race, the inculcation of good feeling in the industrial world, the cause of the aged, the cause of the men and women who had so little chance — tell me, has war anything that beckons as these things beckon with alluring and compelling power? Whoso wants to share the heroism of battle let him join the fight against ignorance and disease — and the mad idea that war is necessary.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) American industrialist and philanthropist
“A Plea for Peace,” New York Times (7 Apr 1907)
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Added on 8-Jan-16 | Last updated 8-Jan-16
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The greatest height of heroism to which an individual, like a people, can attain is to know how to face ridicule; better still, to know how to make oneself ridiculous and not to shrink from the ridicule.

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) Spanish philosopher and writer [Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo]
The Tragic Sense of Life [Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida], Conclusion (1913) [tr. Flitch (1921)]
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Added on 6-Nov-15 | Last updated 6-Nov-15
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The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears, and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“The Art of Donald McGill” (Sep 1941)
Added on 16-Oct-15 | Last updated 16-Oct-15
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It was involuntary. They sank my boat.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
(Attributed)

When asked how he became a war hero. In A. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days, 4.9 (1965)
Added on 2-Oct-15 | Last updated 2-Oct-15
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The hero saves us. Praise the hero! Now, who will save us from the hero?

Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) Roman politician and orator [Marcus Portius Cato]
Speech in the Roman Senate
Added on 25-Sep-15 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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I have regard to appearance still. So am I no hero.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (6 Apr 1839)
Added on 4-Sep-15 | Last updated 4-Sep-15
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Heroism is a model. It is worthwhile to the extent that it is useful. Humans are all full of glory and garbage, and to dwell too long on one or the other robs us of that very humanity.

Graham Ericsson (b. 1947) American writer, aphorist
What Have You Done To Me Lately?, ch. 1 (2014)
Added on 13-Jul-15 | Last updated 13-Jul-15
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Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
You Learn By Living (1960)

An earlier version of this (the first sentence, at least) was included in a letter to Joseph Lash (13 Feb 1946).
Added on 7-Jan-15 | Last updated 2-Apr-15
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Strength of numbers is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit glory in fighting alone.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
In Young India (17 Jun 1926)
Added on 19-Jun-14 | Last updated 19-Jun-14
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Is it not better to die valiantly, than ignominiously to lose our wretched and dishonoured lives after being the sport of others’ insolence?

[Nonne emori per virtutem praestat quam vitam miseram atque inhonestam, ubi alienae superbiae ludibrio fueris, per dedecus amittere?]

Catiline (108-62 BC) Roman politician [Lucius Sergius Catilina]
Quoted in Sallust, Catiline’s War, Book 20, pt. 9 [tr. Rolfe]

Alt. trans.: "Is it not better to die in a glorious attempt, than, after having been the sport of other men's insolence, to resign a wretched and degraded existence with ignominy?"
Added on 5-Jun-14 | Last updated 5-Jun-14
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Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) American writer [Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald]
“The Notebooks” (E), The Crack-Up [ed. Edmund Wilson (1945)]
Added on 15-Apr-08 | Last updated 4-Sep-15
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True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) American athlete
(Attributed)

Quoted in Readers Digest, "Points to Ponder" (Sep 1994)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfil the demands that each day makes upon me, and to rejoice that others can do what I cannot. Green, the historian, tells us that the world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker, and that thought alone suffices to guide me in this dark world and wide. I love the good that others do; for their activity is an assurance that whether I can help or not, the true and the good will stand sure.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” Part 1 (1903)
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Often paraphrased as: "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jun-14
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MAL: Well, look at this! Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?
ZOE: Big damn heroes, sir.
MAL: Ain’t we just.

Drew Z. Greenberg (contemp.) TV producer and writer
Firefly, 1×05 “Safe” (8 Nov 2002)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-May-15
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