Quotations about   improvement

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Where men then are free to consult experience they will correct their practice, and make changes for the better. It follows, therefore, that the more free men are, the more changes they will make. In the beginning, possibly, for the worse; but most certainly in time for the better; until their knowledge enlarging by observation, and their judgment strengthening by exercise, they will find themselves in the straight, broad, fair road of improvement. Out of change, therefore, springs improvement; and the people who shall have imagined a peaceable mode of changing their institutions, hold a surety for their melioration. This surety is worth all other excellences. Better were the prospects of a people under the influence of the worst government who should hold the power of changing it, that those of a people under the best who should hold no such power.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
Independence Day speech, New Harmony, Indiana (4 Jul 1828)
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Added on 13-Mar-19 | Last updated 13-Mar-19
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There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.

Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) American clergyman and writer
“Salt,” Counsels by the Way (1921 ed.)
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Added on 13-Dec-17 | Last updated 13-Dec-17
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We readily inquire, “Does he know Greek or Latin?” “Can he write poetry and prose?” But what matters most is what we put last: “Has he become better and wiser?” We ought to find out not who understands most but who understands best.

[Nous nous enquerons volontiers: “Sçait-il du Gre ou du Latin? Estriil en vers ou en prose?” Mais sìl est devenu ou plus advisé, c’estoit le principal, et c’est ce qui demeure derrier. Il falloit sènquerir qui est mieux sçavant, non qui est plus sçavant.]

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
The Complete Essays, I:25 “On Schoolmasters [Du pédantisme]”
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Added on 30-Oct-17 | Last updated 30-Oct-17
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There comes now and then a bolder spirit, I should rather say, a more surrendered soul, more informed and led by God, which is much in advance of the rest, quite beyond their sympathy, but predicts what shall soon be the general fullness; as when we stand by the seashore, whilst the tide is coming in, a wave comes up the beach far higher than any foregoing one, and recedes; and for a long while none comes up to that mark; but after some time the whole sea is there and beyond it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Lecture on the Times,” Boston (2 Dec 1841)
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Added on 17-Oct-17 | Last updated 17-Oct-17
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If you attack Stupidity, you attack an entrenched interest with friends in government and every walk of public life, and you will make small progress against it.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995) Canadian author, editor, publisher
The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks (1949)
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Added on 8-Sep-17 | Last updated 8-Sep-17
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He that is good will infallibly become better, and he that is bad will as certainly become worse; for vice, virtue, and time are three things that never stand still.

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #457 (1821 ed.)
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.

Goldsmith - no other model - wist_info quote

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) Irish poet, playwright, novelist
“On Our Theaters,” The Bee, #11 (13 Oct 1759)
Added on 14-Jul-16 | Last updated 14-Jul-16
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I don’t ever lose sight of the fact that this country is the best one. I don’t care nearly as much about other societies. My country is the one I want to make better. But I do think the patriotic thing to do is to critique my country. How else do you make a country better but by pointing out its flaws?

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
“Bill Maher, Incorrect American Patriot,” Interview with Sharon Waxman, Washington Post (8 Nov 2002)
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Added on 13-Jul-16 | Last updated 13-Jul-16
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Be very circumspect in the choice of thy company. In the society of thine equals thou shalt enjoy more pleasure; in the society of thy superiors thou shalt find more profit. To be the best in the company is the way to grow worse. The best means to grow better is to be the worst there.

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Enchyridion, Book 2, ch. 24 (1641)
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Added on 13-Jun-16 | Last updated 13-Jun-16
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The inventor … looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world; he is haunted by an idea. The spirit of invention possesses him, seeking materialization.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-American scientist, inventor, engineer
Speech (1891)

On a plaque at the entrance to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Added on 14-Apr-16 | Last updated 14-Apr-16
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The Earth does not want new continents, but new men.

[Ce ne sont pas de nouveaux continents qu’il faut à la terre, mais de nouveaux hommes!]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Part 1, ch. 18 “Vanikoro” (1870) [tr. Smith & Co. (1873)]
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Ch. 19 in the French text.

Alt. trans.: "The planet doesn't need new continents, it needs new men." [Miller (1966)]
Added on 8-Apr-16 | Last updated 8-Apr-16
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“Do you think the world is growing worse?” Mr. Hennessy asked.
“I do not,” said Mr. Dooley.
“Do you think it’s growing better?”
“No,” said Mr. Dooley. “If it’s doing anything, it’s just turning around as usual.”

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
(Attributed)

Usually paraphrased as "The world is not growing worse and it is not growing better -- it is just turning around as usual."
Added on 26-Feb-16 | Last updated 26-Feb-16
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The girl that I will marry
Will be like a fine wine
That will become better
A bit every morning.

[La fille que j’aimera
Sera comme bon vin
Qui se bonifiera
Un peu chaque matin.]

Brel - like a fine wine - wist_info quote

Jacques Brel (1929-1978) Belgian singer, songwriter, actor
“Bachelor’s Dance [La Bourrée Du Célibataire]” (1957)

More commonly translated for English (by Eric Blau): "The girl that I will marry / Will age without a fear / And like the wine grow mellower / With every passing year."
Added on 5-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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A man’s first duty is to make a competence and be independent. But his whole duty does not end there. It his his duty to do something for his needy neighbors who are less favored than himself. It is his duty to contribute to the general good of the community in which he lives. He has been protected by its laws. Because he has been protected in his various enterprises he has been able to make money sufficient for his needs and those of his family. All beyond this belongs in justice to the protecting power that has fostered him and enabled him to win pecuniary success. To try and make the world in some way better than you have found is to have a noble motive in life.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) American industrialist and philanthropist
The Empire of Business, “Thrift as a Duty” (1902)
Added on 15-Jan-16 | Last updated 15-Jan-16
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Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering ‘it will be happier’.

Tennyson - hope - wist_info quote

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) English poet
“The Foresters or, Robin Hood and Maid Marian”, Act 1, sc. 3 (1892)
Added on 31-Dec-15 | Last updated 31-Dec-15
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Things are not getting worse; things have always been this bad. Nothing is more consoling than the long perspective of history. It will perk you up no end to go back and read the works of progressives past. You will learn therein that things back then were also terrible, and what’s more, they were always getting worse. This is most inspiriting.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) American writer, political columnist [Mary Tyler Ivins]
The Progressive (Mar 1986)
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Added on 21-Dec-15 | Last updated 21-Dec-15
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There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Nov-15 | Last updated 23-Nov-15
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You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

Malcolm X - wrong is wrong - wist_info

Malcolm X (1925-1965) American revolutionary, religious leader [b. Malcolm Little]
“Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” speech, New York (7 Jan 1965)
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Added on 20-Nov-15 | Last updated 20-Nov-15
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The whole fun of living is trying to make something better.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 9-Oct-15 | Last updated 9-Oct-15
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Substantial progress toward better things can rarely be taken without developing new evils requiring new remedies.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Our Chief Magistrate and His Powers (1916)
Added on 10-Aug-15 | Last updated 10-Aug-15
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The real reason for not committing suicide is because you always know how swell life gets again after hell is over.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
Letter (1926)
Added on 14-May-15 | Last updated 14-May-15
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What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Washington, DC (10 Nov 1964)
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Added on 4-May-15 | Last updated 4-May-15
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The elevation of the mind ought to be the principal end of all our studies.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, 1.19 (1756)
Added on 11-Dec-14 | Last updated 11-Dec-14
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Only he who has seen better days and lives to see better days again knows their full value.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 17-Nov-14 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” #11
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Added on 26-Sep-14 | Last updated 26-Sep-14
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An authentic faith — which is never comfortable or completely personal — always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 183 (24 Nov 2013)
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Added on 26-Aug-14 | Last updated 26-Aug-14
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Self-made men are most alwus apt tew be a leetle too proud ov the job.

[Self-made men are almost always apt to be a little too proud of the job.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Billings’ Farmer’s Allminax for the Year of Our Lord 1873, “May 1873” (1872)
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Also in Josh Billing's Encyclopedia, "Koarse Shot" (1874).
Added on 21-May-14 | Last updated 10-Jun-14
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Don’t go to great trouble to optimize something that never should be done at all. Aim to enhance total systems properties, such as creativity, stability, diversity, resilience, and sustainability — whether they are easily measured or not.

Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910-1993) American economist, educator, poet, philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 27-Jan-14 | Last updated 27-Jan-14
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Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit round by round.

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) American novelist, poet, editor [pseud. Timothy Titcomb]
“Gradatim”
Added on 18-Dec-13 | Last updated 18-Dec-13
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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 direction, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to William C. Jarvis (28 Sep 1820)
Added on 17-Aug-09 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
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Study depends on the good will of the student, a quality that cannot be secured by compulsion.

[Studium discendi voluntate, quae cogi non potest, constat.]

Quintilian (39-90) Roman orator [Marcus Fabius Quintilianus]
De Institutione Oratoria, Book 3, ch. 8
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Jun-16
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Be at War with your Vices, at Peace with your Neighbours, and let every New-Year find you a better Man.

Franklin - every new year - wist_info quote

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (1755)

More information on this quotation here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 31-Dec-15
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If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who have not been satisfied with their condition you would still be living in caves. You never would have emerged from the jungle. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) American union leader, activist, socialist, politician
“The Issue,” Speech, Girard, Kansas (23 May 1908)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 28-Jan-15
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ALBANY: Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 1, sc. 4, l. 353 (c. 1605)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Mar-15
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