Quotations about   participation

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This is supposed to be a participatory democracy and if we’re not in there participating then the people that will manipulate and exploit the system will step in there. So I’ve been a political activist all my life and I think in a large measure it’s because of the internment that we experienced fifty years ago.

George Takei
George Takei (b. 1937) American actor, author, activist [ジョージ・タケイ, b. Hosato Takei]
Interview by Peter Anthony Holder, CJAD, Montreal (21 Nov 1994)
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Added on 30-Aug-22 | Last updated 30-Aug-22
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The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism — a cynicism that’s led too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on election day. […] So if you don’t like what’s going on right now — and you shouldn’t — do not complain. Don’t hashtag. Don’t get anxious. Don’t retreat. Don’t binge on whatever it is you’re bingeing on. Don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment. Don’t put your head in the sand. Don’t boo. Vote. You’ve got to vote.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Speech, University of Illinois (7 Sep 2018)
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Added on 12-Jul-22 | Last updated 12-Jul-22
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It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
“Farewell Address,” Chicago (10 Jan 2017)
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Added on 14-Jun-22 | Last updated 14-Jun-22
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Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes. But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
“Farewell Address,” Chicago (10 Jan 2017)
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Added on 31-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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Heartbreaking things I saw with my own eyes
And was myself a part of.

[Quaeque ipse miserrima vidi
et quorum pars magna fui.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 2, l. 5ff (2.5-6) [Aeneas] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]
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Recounting the fall of Troy. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

All that I saw, and part of which I was.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

The woes I saw with these sad eyne,
The deeds whereof large part was mine
[tr. Conington (1866)]

The afflicting scenes that I myself
Beheld, and a great part of which I was.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

I myself saw these things in all their horror, and I bore great part in them.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Which thing myself unhappy did behold,
Yea, and was no small part thereof
[tr. Morris (1900)]

The woes I saw, thrice piteous to behold,
And largely shared.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 1, ll. 6-7]

Which woeful scene I saw,
and bore great part in each event I tell.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

The sights most piteous that I myself saw and whereof I was no small part.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Sorrowful things I saw myself, wherein
I had my share and more.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Most piteous events I saw with my own eyes
And played no minor part in.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

I saw these terrible things,
and took great part in them.
[tr. Mantinband (1964)]

For I myself
saw these sad things; I took large part in them.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971)]

And all the horrors I have seen, and in which I played a large part.
[tr. West (1990)]

I saw these horrors myself
And played no small part in them.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

What horrors I saw,
a tragedy where I played a leading role myself.
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

I saw the piteous events myself -- I played no minor part.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

All of which misery I saw,
and a great part of which I was.

Added on 23-Feb-22 | Last updated 23-Feb-22
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All citizens do have a measure of control, at least in democracies where their votes are counted, of how they belong to their nations. Perhaps they will have more confidence in unconventional choices if they see that each nation’s founders were disobedient and unpredictable, men and women of imagination and ambition. The steel of every national monument was once molten.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
The Red Prince, “Orange: European Revolutions” (2008)
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Added on 8-Sep-21 | Last updated 8-Sep-21
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Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do.

Timothy Snyder (b. 1969) American historian, author
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017)
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Added on 4-Aug-21 | Last updated 4-Aug-21
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If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu.

Ann Richards (1933-2006) American politician [Dorothy Ann Willis Richards]
(Attributed)

Richards regularly used the phrase, but it's unclear if she originated it. See here for more discussion.
Added on 5-Nov-20 | Last updated 15-Nov-20
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Society in its full sense […] is never an entity separable from the individuals who compose it. No individual can arrive even at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates. Conversely, no civilization has in it any element which in the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual.

Ruth Benedict (1887-1947) American anthropologist
Patterns of Culture, ch. 8 “The Individual and Culture” (1934)
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Sometimes quoted as "The community is never an entity ...."
Added on 18-Sep-20 | Last updated 18-Sep-20
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I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system — that is an ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.

Harper Lee (1926-2016) American writer [Nellie Harper Lee]
To Kill a Mockingbird, ch. 20 (1960)
Added on 31-Mar-17 | Last updated 31-Mar-17
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He who holds the ladder is as guilty as the thief.

(Other Authors and Sources)
German proverb
Added on 3-Mar-17 | Last updated 3-Mar-17
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Let us not be mistaken: the best government in the world, the best parliament and the best president, cannot achieve much on their own. And it would be wrong to expect a general remedy from them alone. Freedom and democracy include participation and therefore responsibility from us all.

Václav Havel (1936-2011) Czech playwright, essayist, dissident, politician
“New Year’s Address to the Nation” (1 Jan 1990)
Added on 29-Aug-16 | Last updated 29-Aug-16
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The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.

Roosevelt - pull his weight - wist_info quote

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Speech, New York (11 Nov 1902)
Added on 16-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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ANDREA: Science has only one commandment: contribution.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
Life of Galileo [Leben des Galilei], sc. 13 (1939)

Alt. trans.: "Science knows only one commandment -- contribute to science." [tr. Brenton (1980)]
Added on 15-Oct-15 | Last updated 15-Oct-15
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If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.

Elizabeth Warren (b. 1949) American academic and politician [née Herring]
Speech, Emily’s List PAC, New York (22 Sep 2014)
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Added on 6-Oct-14 | Last updated 6-Oct-14
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Can you appreciate music without playing it? Of course you can, in the same way that people who are not athletes get enjoyment from attending a game to enjoy the crowd, the excitement, and the experience.

Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) Lithuanian-American violinist
(Unsourced)

Quoted on his official web page.
Added on 9-Dec-13 | Last updated 9-Dec-13
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The important thing in life is not the victory but the contest; the essential thing is not to have won but to have fought well.

[L’important dans la vie ce n’est point le triomphe, mais le combat, l’essentiel ce n’est pas d’avoir vaincu mais de s’être bien battu.]

Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin (1863-1937) French pedagogue, historian, founder of the International Olympic Committee
Olympic Creed, Speech, Olympic Games, London (24 Jul 1908)

Alt. trans: "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Original phrasing by de Coubertin: "The importance of these Olympiads is not so much to win as to take part."

De Coubertin was drawing from a sermon by Bp. Ethelbert Talbot at St Paul's Cathedral, London (19 Jul 1908): "We have just been contemplating the great Olympic Games. What does it mean? It means that young men of robust physical life have come from all parts of the world. It does mean, I think, as someone has said, that this era of internationalism as seen in the Stadium has an element of danger. Of course, it is very true, as he says, that each athlete strives not only for the sake of sport, but for the sake of his country. Thus a new rivalry is invented. If England be beaten on the river, or America outdistanced on the racing path, or that American has lost the strength which she once possessed. Well, what of it? The only safety after all lies in the lesson of the real Olympia -- that the Games themselves are better than the race and the prize. St. Paul tells us how insignificant is the prize, Our prize is not corruptible, but incorruptible, and though only one may wear the laurel wreath, all may share the equal joy of the contest. All encouragement, therefore, be given to the exhilarating -- I might also say soul-saving -- interest that comes in active and fair and clean athletic sports."
Added on 4-Apr-11 | Last updated 15-Jul-20
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When people put their ballots in the boxes, they are, by that act, inoculated against the feeling that the government is not theirs. They then accept, in some measure, that its errors are their errors, its aberrations their aberrations, that any revolt will be against them. It’s a remarkably shrewd and rather conservative arrangement when one thinks of it.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
The Age of Uncertainty, ch. 12 (1977)
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Added on 16-Nov-07 | Last updated 15-Feb-22
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No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

[Żaden płatek śniegu nie czuje się odpowiedzialny za lawinę.]

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
More Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane nowe] (1964) [tr. Gałązka (1969)]
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Alternate translation: "Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty."

More discussion of this quotation here: No Snowflake in an Avalanche Ever Feels Responsible – Quote Investigator.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Apr-22
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CALVIN: When I grow up, I’m not going to read the newspaper and I’m not going to follow complex issues and I’m not going to vote. That way I can complain when the government doesn’t represent me. Then, when everything goes down the tubes, I can say the system doesn’t work and justify my further lack of participation.
HOBBES: An ingeniously self-fulfilling plan.
CALVIN: It’s a lot more fun to blame things than to fix them.

Bill Watterson (b. 1958) American cartoonist
Calvin & Hobbes (18 May 1992)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Nov-20
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But men must know, that in this theatre of man’s life it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 2, ch. 20, sec. 8 (1605)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 30-Jul-14
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