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.”
Speaking of dictators, Napoleon Bonaparte, (1769-1821), said this, “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” The great Albert Einstein, (1879-1955), gave us the following two quotations, first, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Think about that! His second quotation is, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Here’s one on the same general topic, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Any clue who said it? It was Galileo who lived between 1564 and 1642.
Here’s a quote by Winston Churchill as only he could put it. “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” There are whole books devoted to the cleverness of what Churchill had to say during this lifetime. Here’s another quote by Churchill; “If you are going through Hell, keep going.” And yet one more, “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
Moving back to this side of the Atlantic, Thomas Jefferson said, “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” A complementary quote by Henry Ford reads, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are usually right.” How about this quote from H.G. Wells, (1866-1946)? “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” In a little more upbeat tone, George Washington Carver, (1864-1943), said, “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
One of the more clever comedians of his time, Groucho Marx, (1895-1977), who made the song “Show Me a Rose” famous, once said, “I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it.” Or how about this quote by the famous football coach, Vince Lombardi? “We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.” Another great entertainer, Jimmy Durante, once said, “Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down.” And in the same vein, Samuel Johnson, (1709-1784), said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” I particularly like that one.
From the pen of Henry Kissinger comes this quotation; “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people they think it’s their fault.” Here’s a very, very old quotation, “I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.” That was said by Xenocrates who lived from 396 to 314 B.C. Finally, one more ancient quote comes from Aristotle, (384-322 B.C.), who said, “Wit is educated insolence.”
More recently, famous race car driver and winner of the Indianapolis 500, Mario Andretti, said, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” During the last century, American journalist and satirist Ambrose Bierce, (1842-1914), defined an egotist as, “A person more interested in himself than in me.” More recently, Gore Vidal said, “A narcissist is someone better looking you are.” Here’s one more quote with a timeless quality, by Winston Churchill, “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”
Finally, one last anonymous quote; “The world is full of people who can only say ‘I didn’t,’ or ‘I wouldn’t,’ or ‘I should have.’ Few can say ‘I did.’ Fewer still can say ‘I am.’”
That’s –30—for this week.