Over the years I have collected quotations, pithy sayings, and clever comments, all of which I keep in the top right-hand drawer of my desk. As it turns out, I’m not the only person who collects the same sort of comments. Dr. Gabriel Robins, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia, also collects them. Part of the reason for collecting clever sayings, I think, is that most of them make a salient point about life in very few, but carefully chosen, words. This week I’m going to share some the best quotations from Dr. Gabriel’s collection. I’ve sprinkled in a few from my own collection as well. They’re not organized in any particular way – just as they struck my fancy. Most, but not all, of the pithy sayings are attributed to a specific person, but some are anonymous.
What’s particularly interesting about those with attribution is that, regardless of how long ago they were written, how powerful they still are. One of my favorites is by British statesman and politician, Edmund Burke. Talking about serving in public office in 1774, Burke said, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Cool, huh? Burke’s words are as true today as they were back in 1774.
This next one you may find a little startling; but, if you read it a second time, I think you’ll find that it’s true! Hermann Goering, Hitler’s Reich-Marshall and head of the German air force during World War II, said this during the Nuremberg trials in about 1946. “Naturally, the common people don’t want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”