Walter Lippmann

Walter
Lippmann
1889
1974

American Intellectual, Reporter, Teacher, Editor, Journalist and Political Commentator

Author Quotes

But in truth Miss Earhart needs no such justification. The world is a better place to live in because it contains human beings who will give up ease and security and stake their own lives in order to do what they themselves think worth doing. They help to offset the much larger numbers who are ready to sacrifice the ease and the security and the very lives of others in order to do what they want done.

I cannot quite remember whether Miss Earhart undertook her flight with some practical purpose in mind, say, to demonstrate something or other about aviation which will make it a little easier for commercial passengers to move more quickly around the world. There are those who seem to think that an enterprise like hers must have some such justification, that without it there was no good reason for taking such grave risks.

It is somehow reassuring to think that there are also men and women who take the risks themselves, who pit themselves not against their fellow beings but against the immensity and the violence of the natural world, who are brave without cruelty to others and impassioned with an idea that dignifies all who contemplate it.

No preconceived theory fits them. No material purpose actuates them. They do the useless, brave, noble, the divinely foolish and the very wisest things that are done by man. And what they prove to themselves and to others is that man is no mere creature of his habits, no mere automaton in his routine, no mere cog in the collective machine, but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky.

Such energy cannot be planned and managed and made purposeful, or weighted by the standards of utility or judged by its social consequences. It is wild and it is free. But all the heroes, the saints, the seers, the explorers and the creators partake of it. They do not know what they discover. They do not know where their impulse is taking them. They can give no account in advance of where they are going or explain completely where they have been. They have been possessed for a time with an extraordinary passion which is unintelligible in ordinary terms.

The best things of mankind are as useless as Amelia Earhart?s adventure. They are the things that are undertaken not for some definite, measurable result, but because someone, not counting the costs or calculating the consequences, is moved by curiosity, the love of excellence, a point of honor, the compulsion to invent or to make or to understand. In such persons mankind overcomes the inertia which would keep it earthbound forever in its habitual ways. They have in them the free and useless energy with which alone men surpass themselves.

The chief element in the art of statesmanship under modern conditions is the ability to elucidate the confused and clamorous interests which converge upon the seat of government. It is an ability to penetrate from the naive self-interest of each group to its permanent and real interest. Statesmanship consists in giving the people not what they want but what they will learn to want.

The man who will follow precedent, but never create one, is merely an obvious example of the routineer. You find him desperately numerous in the civil service, in the official bureaus. To him government is something given as unconditionally, as absolutely as ocean or hill. He goes on winding the tape that he finds. His imagination has rarely extricated itself from under the administrative machine to gain any sense of what a human, temporary contraption the whole affair is. What he thinks is the heavens above him is nothing but the roof.

The search for moral guidance which shall not depend upon external authority has invariably ended in the acknowledgment of some new authority.

There are at least two distinct selves, the public and regal self, the private and human.

To understand is not only to pardon but in the end to love.

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

Without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense of the word is impossible. In order to conduct propaganda there must be some barrier between the public and the event.

The decay of decency in the modern age, the rebellion against law and good faith, the treatment of human beings as things, as the mere instruments of power and ambition, is without a doubt the consequence of the decay of the belief in man as something more than an animal animated by highly conditioned reflexes and chemical reactions. For, unless man is something more than that, he has no rights that anyone is bound to respect, and there are no limitations upon his conduct which he is bound to obey.

The Many can elect after the Few have nominated.

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

There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil - remain detached from the great.

Unless democracy is to commit suicide by consenting to its own destruction, it will have to find some formidable answer to those who come to it saying ''I demand from you in the name of your principles the rights which I shall deny to you later in the name of my principles.''

When all think alike, then no one is thinking.

Yet this corporate being, though so insubstantial to our senses, binds, in Burkes words, a man to his country with ties which though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. That is why young men die in battle for their country’s sake and why old men plant trees they will never sit under.

The disesteem into which moralists have fallen is due at bottom to their failure to see that in an age like this one the function of the moralist is not to exhort men to be good but to elucidate what the good is. The problem of sanctions is secondary.

The mass of the reading public is not interested in learning and assimilating the results of accurate investigation.

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

There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies.

Unless our ideas are questioned, they become part of the furniture of eternity.

Author Picture
First Name
Walter
Last Name
Lippmann
Birth Date
1889
Death Date
1974
Bio

American Intellectual, Reporter, Teacher, Editor, Journalist and Political Commentator