Quotations about   liberal

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The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) American politician, diplomat, sociologist
Godkin Lecture, Harvard (1985)
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As reprinted in his book, Family and Nation (1986).
Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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Long ago, there was a noble word, “liberal,” which derives from the word “free.” Now a strange thing happened to that word. A man named Hitler made it a term of abuse, a matter of suspicion, because those who were not with him were against him, and liberals had no use for Hitler. And then another man named McCarthy cast the same opprobrium on the word. Indeed, there was a time — a short but dismaying time — when many Americans began to distrust the word which derived from “free.”

One thing we must all do. We must cherish and honor the word “free” or it will cease to apply to us. And that would be an inconceivable situation.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow is Now (1963)
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Added on 2-Nov-20 | Last updated 2-Nov-20
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I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, and the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, this faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith, for liberalism is not so much a party creed or a set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Liberal Party Nomination, New York (14 Sep 1960)
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Added on 30-Oct-20 | Last updated 30-Oct-20
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To anger a conservative, lie to him. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Roosevelt but unsourced; first appears in the 2000s. See here for more discussion.
Added on 22-Nov-16 | Last updated 12-Mar-19
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For Liberalism, the individual is the end and society the means; nor is it conceivable that the individual, considered in the dignity of an ultimate finality, be lowered to mere instrumentality. For Fascism, society is the end, individuals the means, and its whole life consists in using individuals as instruments for its social ends.

Alfredo Rocco (1875-1935) Italian politician, jurist, economic theorist
The Political Doctrine of Fascism (1926)
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Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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We believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need. We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn’t distort or promise to do things that we know we can’t do. We believe in a government strong enough to use words like “love” and “compassion” and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities. We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention (16 Jul 1984)
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Added on 29-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another’s pain, sharing one another’s blessings — reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Commencement Address, Iona College (3 Jun 1984)
Added on 22-Jun-15 | Last updated 22-Jun-15
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Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.

Tony Kushner (b. 1956) American playwright and screenwriter
Interview with Ben Greenman, “Tony Kushner, Radical Pragmatist,” Mother Jones (Nov/Dec 2003)
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Added on 14-Aug-14 | Last updated 14-Aug-14
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“Liberal” comes from the Latin liberalis, which means pertaining to a free man. In politics, to be liberal is to want to extend democracy through change and reform. One can see why the word had to be erased from our political lexicon.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“America First? America Last? America at Last?,” Lowell Lecture, Harvard University (20 Apr 1992)
Added on 9-Oct-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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Conservatism stands on man’s incontestable limitations; reform on his indisputable infinitiude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Conservative,” lecture, Masonic Temple, Boston (9 Dec 1841)
Added on 14-Apr-09 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1898 [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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