Very few people really care about freedom, about liberty, about the truth, very few. Very few people have guts, the kind of guts on which a real democracy has to depend. Without people with that sort of guts a free society dies or cannot be born.
Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.
It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
A free and open society is an ongoing conflict, interrupted periodically by compromises.
The most dangerous illusion from which free men suffer is the widely held idea that freedom maintains itself by the mere fact of its being.
You never win freedom permanently. You have to win it time after time . . . whether it’s union rights, civil rights, or equality for women. We have to keep at it and at it.
To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.
Liberty . . . is the possibility of doubting, the possibility of making a mistake, the possibility of searching and experimenting, the possibility of saying “no” to any authority — literary, artistic, philosophic, religious, social, and even political.
I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his own way.
The people who earn liberty are not those who live to enjoy that liberty; the inheritors ease into the hard-won liberty without knowing the anguish that was paid for it.
The enemies of freedom do not argue; they shout and they shoot.
Each generation of people begins by thinking they’ve got [freedom] for the first time in history, and ends by being sure the generation younger than themselves have too much of it. It can’t really always have been increasing at the rate people suppose, or there would be more of it by now.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.
In the end, freedom is a personal and lonely battle, and one faces down fears of today so that those of tomorrow might be engaged.
Nothing on earth can stop man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature.
The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.