Walter Lippman Quotations

-A long life in journalism convinced me many presidents ago that there should be a large air space between a journalist and the head of a state.

-A man has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.

-Ages when custom is unsettled are necessarily ages of prophecy. The moralist cannot teach what is revealed; he must reveal what can be taught. He has to seek insight rather than to preach.

-Between ourselves and our real natures we interpose that wax figure of idealizations and selections which we call our character.

-Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party.

-Certainly he is not of the generation that regards honesty as the best policy. However, he does regard it as a policy.

-He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.

-I would have carved on the portals of the National Press Club, “Put not your trust in princes.” Only the very rarest of princes can endure even a little criticism, and few of them can put up with even a pause in the adulation.

-Ideals are an imaginative understanding of that which is desirable in that which is possible.

-In government offices which are sensitive to the vehemence and passion of mass sentiment public men have no sure tenure. They are in effect perpetual office seekers, always on trial for their political lives, always required to court their restless constituents.

-Industry is a better horse to ride than genius.

-It is perfectly true that that government is best which governs least. It is equally true that that government is best which provides most.

-It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.

-Many a time I have wanted to stop talking and find out what I really believed.

-Men who are orthodox when they are young are in danger of being middle-aged all their lives.

-Most men, after a little freedom, have preferred authority with the consoling assurances and the economy of effort it brings.

-No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people.

-Once you touch the biographies of human beings, the notion that political beliefs are logically determined collapses like a pricked balloon.

-Only the consciousness of a purpose that is mightier than any man and worthy of all men can fortify and inspirit and compose the souls of men.

-Our conscience is not the vessel of eternal verities. It grows with our social life, and a new social condition means a radical change in conscience.

-People that are orthodox when they are young are in danger of being middle-aged all their lives.

-Private property was the original source of freedom. It still is its main ballpark.

-Successful politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies.

-The best servants of the people, like the best valets, must whisper unpleasant truths in the master’s ear. It is the court fool, not the foolish courtier, whom the king can least afford to lose.

-The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.

-The first principle of a civilized state is that the power is legitimate only when it is under contract.

-The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.

-The great social adventure of America is no longer the conquest of the wilderness but the absorption of fifty different peoples.

-The opposition is indispensable. A good statesman, like any other sensible human being, always learns more from his opposition than from his fervent supporters.

-The private citizen, beset by partisan appeals for the loan of his Public Opinion, will soon see, perhaps, that these appeals are not a compliment to his intelligence, but an imposition on his good nature and an insult to his sense of evidence.

-The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief… that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.

-The senator might remember that the Evangelists had a more inspiring subject.

-The simple opposition between the people and big business has disappeared because the people themselves have become so deeply involved in big business.

-The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.

-The time has come to stop beating our heads against stone walls under the illusion that we have been appointed policeman to the human race.

-There is no arguing with the pretenders to a divine knowledge and to a divine mission. They are possessed with the sin of pride, they have yielded to the perennial temptation.

-There is nothing so good for the human soul as the discovery that there are ancient and flourishing civilized societies which have somehow managed to exist for many centuries and are still in being though they have had no help from the traveler in solving their problems.

-‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.

-We are all captives of the picture in our head – our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.

-We are quite rich enough to defend ourselves, whatever the cost. We must now learn that we are quite rich enough to educate ourselves as we need to be educated.

-When all men think alike, no one thinks very much.

-When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute.

-When men can no longer be theists, they must, if they are civilized, become humanists.

-Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much.
Walter Lippman