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Dialogue & Deliberation Quotes

The following people helped gather this fabulous list of inspiring quotes: Judith Mowry, Diane Bock, Patrick Brown, Wal Cusworth, Rogier Gregoire, Sandy Heierbacher, DeAnna Martin, Susan Partnow, Harris Sokoloff, Dick Spady and Libby and Len Traubman.

Have a suggestion for an addition to this list? — Add a comment below.

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About Dialogue…

“There is something more important than information. Values are far more important, and it is by understanding common values that decisions are made. We come to understand values through dialogue.”

— Jack Blaney, President of Simon Fraser University

“A key difference between a dialogue and an ordinary discussion is that, within the latter people usually hold relatively fixed positions and argue in favor of their views as they try to convince others to change. At best this may produce agreement or compromise, but it does not give rise to anything creative.”

— David Bohm

“What is essential here is the presence of the spirit of dialogue, which is in short, the ability to hold many points of view in suspension, along with a primary interest in the creation of common meaning.”

— David Bohm

“Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. we havent really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have ENGAGED in thoughts, put we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process. Why does thought require attention? Everything requires attention, really. If we ran machines without paying attention to them, they would break down. Our thought, too, is a process, and it requires attention, otherwise its going to go wrong.”

— David Bohm, On Dialogue

“At present, people create barriers between each other by their fragmentary thought. Each one operates separately. When these barriers have dissolved, then there arises one mind, where they are all one unit, but each person also retains his or her own individual awareness. That one mind will still exist even when they separate, and when they come together, it will be as if they hadn’t separated. It’s actually a single intelligence that works with people who are moving in relationship with one another. . . . If you had a number of people who really pulled together and worked together in this way, it would be remarkable. They would stand out so much that everyone would know they were different.”

— David Bohm

“Dialogue is being increasingly used “to transform deep-rooted, value-based conflicts. With dialogue, small groups of people who hold opposing views on highly divisive and emotional public policy issues (such as abortion or gay rights) are brought together to have a ‘new kind of conversation.’ Unlike debate, which seeks to score points and to persuade, the goal of dialogue is mutual understanding and respect…. This does not lead to a resolution of the conflict, but it can lead to a transformation in the way the conflict is pursued from one which is highly destructive and divisive to one which is constructive and leads to personal growth. Dialogue has also been used effectively to alter relationships in deep-rooted ethnic conflicts, such as that between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

— Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess, Transformative Approaches to Conflict, www.colorado.edu/conflict/transform

“There are two stories here and there is a quality of transcendence – seeing beyond the ‘Jewish Narrative’ or the ‘Palestinian Narrative’ – to a perspective that can humanize both sides and hear the ‘other’ story. A transcender after all has abandoned the exclusive quality of his or her narrative of origin.”

— Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener, Hartford, CT

“In human societies there will always be differences of views and interests. But the reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to coexist on this small planet. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. The promotion of a culture of dialogue and nonviolence for the future of mankind is thus an important task of the international community.”

— His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in a speech to the “Forum 2000” Conference, Prague, Czech Republic, September 4, 1997

“Dialogue is about what we value and how we define it. It is about discovering what our true values are, about Looking beyond the superficial and automatic answers to our questions. Dialogue is about expanding our capacity for attention, awareness and learning with and from each other. It is about exploring the frontiers of what it means to be human, in relationship to each other and our world.”

— Glenna Gerard, 1995

“In light of our common tragedy, one thing was made clear to me: our shared investment in the kinds of relational practices from which more positive futures can be molded is absolutely essential. The day is filled with problem talk: ‘If we could just have more security,’ ‘If we can just find the culprits and bring them to justice,’ etc.–as if returning to the status quo will make everything okay. But in a world of enormous differences in beliefs, values, rationalities, and realities, our status quo can be hell for others. I have heard no one speak of how we might come together to create a more positive world, how common visions can be coordinated, how we can develop the kind of dialogue that would make such brutality unthinkable. Let us pull together, renew our energies, and share our vision in every direction.”

— Ken Gergen, The Taos Institute

“Democracy begins in human conversation. A democratic conversation does not require elaborate rules of procedure or utopian notions of perfect consensus. What it does require is a spirit of mutual respect—people conversing critically with one another in an atmosphere of honesty and shared regard.”

— William Greider, Who Will Tell the People

“Confrontation can be counter-productive. Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”

— Jane Goodall, world-renowned scientist and humanitarian, www.janegoodall.org

“Dialogue participants’ increased sense of power and determination to initiate change, combined with the knowledge they gain from the vastly different experiences and perspectives of their fellow members, puts dialogue groups in a unique, powerful place to solve community problems.”

— Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD, www.ncdd.org

“Dialogue is to love, what blood is to the body. When the flow of blood stops, the body dies. When dialogue stops, love dies and resentment and hate are born. But dialogue can restore a dead relationship. Indeed, this is the miracle of dialogue: it can bring relationship into being, and it can bring into being once again a relationship that has died. There is only one qualification to these claims for dialogue: it must be mutual and proceed from both sides, and the parties to it must persist relentlessly.”

— Reuel L. Howe, The Miracle of Dialogue, 1963

“Dialogue is a fundamental component in the process of peacebuilding. Peacebuilding means creating a human infrastructure for relationships that are harmonious, synergistic, cooperative, respectful and mutually beneficial. When people are divided by their differences, the patterns of relating tend to reinforce separation, fragmentation and divisiveness. In situations of severe conflict, the lack of communication breeds mistrust, distorted views, cycles of hurt and revenge, blame and anger. Dialogue is a way of creating bridges across the chasms of our differences. It generates pathways for developing trust, changing old habits of thought and action and trying new behaviors.”

— Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, www.imtd.org

“We have to choose between dialogue and utter devastation.”

— Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese political activist; Nobel Peace Prize 1991.

“For the human species to evolve, the conversation must deepen.”

— Margaret Mead

“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

— James Nathan Miller

“Facilitated dialogues foster new, respectful relationships, informed by a deepened understanding of the role of prejudice and stereotyping in discriminatory behavior and characterized by individual commitments to fight against personal, cultural and institutional racism.”

— National Conference for Community and Justice, www.nccj.org

“The impact of facilitated dialogues “is great on all participants, but when community, civic and business leaders participate, the impact is even greater. Empowered with new understanding, leaders become advocates who create the changes that transform communities and institutions.”

— National Conference for Community and Justice, www.nccj.org

“Dialogues help citizens take an active role in policy decision making, and the health and strength of democracy depends on the active participation of responsible citizens who take the initiative to engage in dialogue and deliberate about the public policy choices and to work towards setting the public agenda.”

— National Issues Forum, www.nifi.org

“We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope. Inter-religious and intercultural dialogue can not be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.”

— Pope Benedict XVI

“Intolerance has its roots in the tyranny of individual ‘ego’ that clings to the obsession of being uniquely special. It feeds on ignorance and fear. Ignorance or the less we know, is more likely to project our worst feelings and prejudices onto others. Dialogue exposes areas of coincidences and differences and uncovers the hidden inner forces that are the only source of real understanding. Recognise the value of dialogue and minimise the egotistical arrogance of a biased belief.”

— Sri Sathya Sai Baba

OPEN WINDOW

The moment appears.
The invitation is extended.
The cauldron has been forged,
The protocols reviewed and amended.

The conversation begun
now blazes forth
from some smoldering ember
beneath our collective soul.

We can no longer go back.
And we turn to consider,
and we turn to convene,
and we turn to discover
just what we might mean.

— Eric Oksendahl (thanks go to Juanita Brown for submitting this poem for inclusion)

“In dialogue, individuals gain insights that simply could not be achieved individually.”

— Peter Senge

By participating in dialogues, “citizens gain ‘ownership’ of the issues, discover a connection between personal experiences and public policies, and gain a deeper understanding of their own and others’ perspectives and concerns. They discover common ground and a greater desire and ability to work collaboratively to solve local problems – as individuals, as members of small groups, and as members of large organizations in the community. Community-wide study circle programs foster new connections among community members that lead to new levels of community action.”

— Everyday Democracy, www.everyday-democracy.org

“In the word question, there is a beautiful word – quest. I love that word. We are all partners in a quest. The essential questions have no answers. You are my question, and I am yours – and then there is dialogue. The moment we have answers, there is no dialogue. Questions unite people.”

— Elie Wiesel

“We create our world and its future through a process of connecting with each other, sharing knowledge and know-how, and building relationships–all through the process of collaborative conversation. When we consciously focus attention on ‘questions that matter’–for our families, organizations, and communities–we are contributing to the evolution of the knowledge and wisdom that we need co-create the future. We ‘grow what we know’ individually and collectively. We notice the possibilities for mutual insight, innovation, and action that are already present, if only we know where to look.”

— The World Café, www.theworldcafe.com

“The act of collaboration must start with dialogue. You cannot build relationships without having an understanding of your potential partners, and you cannot achieve that understanding without a special form of communication that goes beyond ordinary conversation.”

— Daniel Yankelovich, The Magic of Dialogue


About Deliberation…

“Deliberation may be defined as civil interaction between citizens for the purpose of analyzing a social or political issue. As such, it is reasonable to conceive of this communicative practice as the heart and soul of democracy.”

— Center for Communication Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Deliberation is “the kind of reasoning and talking we do when a difficult decision has to be made, a great deal is at stake, and there are competing options or approaches we might take. It means to weigh possible actions carefully by examining what is most valuable to us.”

— Kettering Foundation

“What we propose is something quite different – intentionally designed, permanent “spaces” on campus for identifying, studying, deliberating, and planning action regarding pressing issues with ethical or social implications. Given that an important mission of colleges and universities is to serve as sites of open inquiry, leading to a deeper understanding of contemporary social challenges, the need for such deliberative spaces is critical. As the higher education community works to address the challenges of increasing diversity, institutional governance, curriculum reform, and constrained resources, the need for inclusive forms of sustained and civil dialogue has become paramount.”

— Bruce Mallory (Associate Provost at the University of New Hampshire) and Nancy Thomas (Director of the Democracy Project), in their article in the Sept/Oct 2003 issue of Change magazine

“Public deliberation is a means by which citizens make tough choices about basic purposes and directions for their communities and their country.”

— David Mathews, Public Deliberation in America

“Deliberation is not a particular type of speech, but a political act of collective decision-making in consideration of consequences.”

— David Mathews, Kettering Foundation, 2002

“Public deliberation is simply people coming together to talk about a community problem that is important to them. Participants deliberate with one another – eye-to-eye, face-to-face, exploring options, weighting others’ views, considering the costs and consequences of public policy decisions.”

“National Issues Forums: An Overview”

Public deliberation “is a public consideration about how problems are to be defined and understood, what the range of possible solutions might be, and who should have the responsibility for solving them.

— Nancy Roberts, “Public Deliberation: An Alternative Approach to Crafting Policy and Setting Direction” in Public Administration Review, vol. 57, no. 2 (124-132). 1997.

“Participation in deliberative forums can be one of the most effective ways that we have of teaching students about democracy through experience. Through actual involvement in the deliberative process, students learn the fundamental skills necessary for being effective citizens: reflecting together on the merits of different policy choices, listening well to other voices, understanding the underlying values that animate a particular view, and finding common ground with those who disagree with us. For many students, the experience of deliberation is the discovery of a whole different way of doing politics.”

— Steven Schultz, Chair, Deliberative Democracy and Citizenship Education Special Interest Group, National Society for Experiential Education


About Listening…

“The Talmud says that we were given two ears but only one tongue to teach us that we should listen twice as much as we speak. The key to all good human relations is in listening.”

Rabbi Phillip J. Bentley, Temple Sholom, Floral Park, NY

“Easy listening exists only on the radio.”

— David Barkan

“Never hold anyone by the button or the hand in order to be heard out; for if people are unwilling to hear you, you had better hold your tongue than them.”

— Lord Chesterfield

“No one ever listened themselves out of a job.”

— Calvin Coolidge

“As you go through life, you are going to have many opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of all of them.”

— James Dent

“Listening is not a skill; it is a discipline.”

— Peter Drucker

“One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other’s stories.”

— Rebecca Falls

“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.”

— J. Isham

“If you’re not listening, you’re not learning.”

— Lyndon Baines Johnson

“People don’t get along because they fear each other. People fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not properly communicated with each other.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The jungle speaks to me because I know how to listen.”

— Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (Mowgli speaking)

“An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.”

— Mrs. Gene Knudsen-Hoffman

“If you are listening to find out, then your mind is free, not committed to anything; it is very acute, sharp, alive, inquiring, curious, and therefore capable of discovery.”

— Krishnamurti

“One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problems, can change our whole outlook on the world.”

— Elton Mayo

“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”

— Richard Moss

“Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.”

— William Shakespeare, from Hamlet

“A better idea than my own is to listen.”

— Mark Twain

“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.”

— Brenda Ueland, Strength to Your Sword Arm

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life. When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other…and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way.”

— Brenda Ueland, Strength to Your Sword Arm

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears.”

— Dean Rusk


About Communication…

“Let no one tell me that silence gives consent, because whoever is silent dissents.”

— Maria Isabel Barreno

“….during the past few decades, modern technology, with radio, tv, air travel, and satellites, has woven a network of communication which puts each part of the world in to almost instant contact with all the other parts. Yet, in spite of this world-wide system of linkages, there is, at this very moment, a general feeling that communication is breaking down everywhere, on an unparalleled scale.”

— David Bohm, On Dialogue

“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on. “I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least…I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.”

— Lewis Carroll

“There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication.”

— John Dewey, Democracy and Education

“Begin with art, because art tries to take us outside ourselves. It is a matter of trying to create an atmosphere and context so conversation can flow back and forth and we can be influenced by each other.”

— W.E.B. duBois

“When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced person relies on the language of the first.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In excited conversation we have glimpses of the universe, hints of power native to the soul, far-darting lights and shadows of an Andes landscape, such as we can hardly attain in lone meditation. Here are oracles sometimes profusely given, to which the memory goes back in barren hours.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Each of us carries within us a worldview, a set of assumptions about how the world works – what some call a paradigm – that forms the very questions we allow ourselves to ask, and determines our view of future possibilities.”

— Francis Moore Lappe

“Nothing lowers the level of conversation more than raising the voice.”

— Stanley Horowitz

“Words are magical in the way they affect the minds of those who use them.”

— Aldus Huxley

“Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to act.”

— The Judeo-Christian Bible

“The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.”

— Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842

“Conversation in the United States is a competitive exercise in which the first person to draw a breath is considered the listener.”

— Nathan Miller

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

— George Bernard Shaw

“Conversation is the cornerstone of civilization, the very essence of culture and community. Face-to-face talk is the way humans have always connected with each other, from the ceremonial fires of tribal villages and the salons of Paris to the book clubs, bowling leagues, street-corner chats, and pillow talk of modern-day America. Good conversation is not only satisfying, it’s the first step toward changing the world.”

— Jay Walljasper, Utne Reader (July/August 2002)

“People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.”

— Elie Wiesel

“Your opponent’s mind is often like a cluttered attic, full of old resentments and angers, gripes and stories. To argue with him just keeps all this stuff alive. But if you acknowledge the validity of what he says, it begins to loose its emotional charge. In effect, the stuff begins to disappear from the attic. By letting him tell his side of the story and acknowledging it, you create psychological room for him to accept that there may be another side of the story.”

— Ury William, Getting Past No


About Knowledge, Truth and Exploration…

“We do not see the lens through which we look.”

— Ruth Fulton Benedict

“Transformation comes more from pursuing profound questions than seeking practical answers.”

— Peter Block

“There may be no pat political answer to the world’s problems. However, the important point is not the answer, but rather the softening up, the opening up of the mind, and looking at all the opinions.”

— David Bohm

“Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or to conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture?”

— David Bohm, Changing Consciousness, 1992

“We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”

— T. S. Eliot

“Raw, naked truth exchanged between the black man and the white man is what a whole lot more of is needed in this country — to clear the air of the racial mirages, cliches, and lies that this country’s very atmosphere has been filled with for four hundred years.”

— Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

“It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.”

— Werner Heisenberg, German physicist and Nobel Laureate

“Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to the truth.”

— Thomas Jefferson

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and realistic.”

— John F. Kennedy

“Each of us carries within us a worldview, a set of assumptions about how the world works – what some call a paradigm – that forms the very questions we allow ourselves to ask, and determines our view of future possibilities.”

— Francis Moore Lappe

“Conversation would be vastly improved by the constant use of four simple words: I do not know.”

— Andre Maurois

“Truth is the on-going conversation about things that matter, conducted with passion and discipline. It’s not about conclusions, for those change; it’s about staying engaged with passion and discipline.”

— Parker Palmer

“Not only are there as many conflicting truths as there are people to claim them; there are equally multitudinous and conflicting truths within the individual.”

— Virgilia Peterson

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

— Marcel Proust

“All difficulties are easy when measure for measure they are known.”

— William Shakespeare

“Most of the knowledge in the world is in books in libraries and in computer data banks, but most of the wisdom in the world is in the minds of people walking the earth. We need to learn how to reach it.”

— Dick Spady, President of the Forum Foundation, from The Leadership of Civilization Building, 2002, p. 59.

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

— Oscar Wilde

“By logic and reason we die hourly. By imagination we live.”

— William Butler Yeats

“When two texts, or two assertions, perhaps two ideas, are in contradiction, be ready to reconcile them rather than cancel one by the other; regard them as two different facets, or two successive stages, of the same reality, a reality convincingly human just because it is complex.”

— Marguerite Yourcenar


About Conflict and Transforming Conflict…

“To reconcile conflicting parties, we must have the ability to understand the suffering of both sides. If we take sides, it is impossible to do the work of reconciliation. And humans want to take sides. That is why the situation gets worse and worse. Are there people who are still available to both sides? They need not do much. They need do only one thing: Go to one side and tell all about the suffering endured by the other side, and go to the other side and tell all about the suffering endured by this side. This is our chance for peace. But how many of us are able to do that?”

— Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk

“If we divide into camps–even into violent and the nonviolent–and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence within ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact.”

— Ayya Khema, “Be An Island”

“A conflict is either a contest or an opportunity.”

— Robert E. Levasseur, Consultant/Author

“If you begin with a loud voice, you soon leave yourself nowhere to go but to fists.”

— Ikaku Masao, Martial Arts Expert

“The only safe way to destroy and enemy is to make him your friend.”

— Abraham Lincoln

“Genuine Peace will never be attained with the elimination of chaos, confusion and conflict. In fact all three are essential to the continuance of life. Without chaos, there is no open space for future possibilities. Without confusion, old ideas and ways of thinking stick around well beyond their time. And without conflict, ideas and approaches fail to reach their full potential, never having been sharpened in the intense conversation of critical assessment. Peace of the sort that brings wholeness, harmony and health to our lives only happens when chaos, confusion and conflict are included and transcended”

— Harrison Owen, creator of Open Space Technology

“Conflict is an energizing process to be managed, not eliminated.”

— Barry Posner

“During the many years of my career as a Hebrew teacher for Palestinians in Gaza, and as an Arabic teacher for the Jews and foreigners at Ulpan Akiva in Israel, I have heard the same kinds of questions and comments expressed by both sides, showing how ignorant we are about one another. We know nothing about each other, in spite of being the children of sister Semitic languages and having the same cultural roots.”

— Samira Shaa’ban Srur Fadil, Director of the Palestinian Abraham Language School in Rimal, Gaza


About Inclusion…

“We measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”

— from the film Chocolat, 2000

“We must widen the circle of our love till it embraces the whole village; the village in its turn must take into its fold the district, the district the province, and so on until the scope of our love becomes co-terminous with the world.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

“They drew a circle which kept me out,
A heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle which drew them in.”

— Edwin Markham


About Democracy…

“For a long time the way government has worked – top-down, top-heavy, controlling – has frequently had the effect of sapping responsibility, local innovation and civic action. It has turned many motivated public sector workers into disillusioned, weary puppets of government targets. It has turned able, capable individuals into passive recipients of state help with little hope for a better future. It has turned lively communities into dull, soulless clones of one another. So we need to turn government completely on its head. The rule of this government should be this: If it unleashes community engagement – we should do it. If it crushes it – we shouldn’t..”

— UK Prime Minister David Cameron, July 19, 2010

“There is nothing beyond the reach of ordinary citizens doing the daily work of democracy, and no problem too great to tackle with the power of active citizenship.”

— Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen advocacy organization, www.citizen.org

“America is in the process of renewing her democracy one community at a time. Citizens now recognize that they have a larger, more active role to play in societal change.”

— Chris Gates, PACE (Past President, National Civic League)

“Democracy begins in human conversation. A democratic conversation does not require elaborate rules of procedure or utopian notions of perfect consensus. What it does require is a spirit of mutual respect—people conversing critically with one another in an atmosphere of honesty and shared regard.”

— William Greider, Who Will Tell the People

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

— Thomas Jefferson

“Where everyman is participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year but everyday, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte.”

— Thomas Jefferson, 1816

“Democracy relies on the telling of stories. If a people are to govern themselves, they must know as much of the truth as they can. But something more is gained in the process. The constant exchange of stories that democracy requires is itself a profound experience. Unexamined memories, forgotten regions of the psyche and the soul must be continually explored for the form to remain alive.

— Susan Griffin, “What Her Body Thought”

“If we are to build full strength in our Nation, we must invest the individual with a sense of civic purpose and dedication and cultivate the internal intellectual and moral discipline requisite to the role of an intelligent citizen in a free society.”

— Sterling M. McMurrin, former U.S. Commissioner of Education

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

— George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, “Maxims: Liberty and Equality,” 1905

“A strong civic life and a flourishing democracy presume the active involvement of many people across society. Civic engagement is thus both a barometer of our public life and a focal point for action when we want to improve it.”

— Martha McCoy and Patrick Scully of Everyday Democracy, from “Deliberative Dialogue to Expand Civic Engagement: What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?” National Civic Review, Summer 2002.

“Freedom of speech, freedom of petition and freedom of assembly are hollow rights if people feel unable to be heard.”

Dick Spady, in the Preamble of Initiative 24 (language used to enact Countywide Community Forums of King County), http://easycitizeninvolvement.com/text.html, accessed: August 3, 2010

“In my lifetime I have seen democracy begin to expand, not only to include those who have been excluded, but to provide a listening arena, a vocabulary, an intelligent reception for stories that have been buried. Not just stories of the disenfranchised and the marginalized, but marginalized and disenfranchised histories even in the lives of the accepted and the privileged.”

— Susan Griffin, “What Her Body Thought”

“America – this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of the NO into the YES, needs citizens who love it enough to re-imagine and remake it.”

— Cornel West


About Action and Change…

“Let us sing a new song – not with our lips, but with our lives.”

— Saint Augustine

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done — then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.”

— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

“There is nothing beyond the reach of ordinary citizens doing the daily work of democracy, and no problem too great to tackle with the power of active citizenship.”

— Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen advocacy organization, www.citizen.org

“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”

— Friedrich Engels

“I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat may come along and make a fortuitous life preserver. This is not to say, though, that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.”

— R. Buckminster Fuller

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

“Confrontation can be counter-productive. Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.”

— Jane Goodall, world-renowned scientist and humanitarian, www.janegoodall.org

“Democracy is not what we have. It is what we do.”

— Frances Moore Lappé and Paul Martin Du Bois

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Margaret Mead

“Things do not change; we change.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

— Leo Tolstoy

In every [community] that I have visited around the world, I have been profoundly moved and impressed by the spirit, will, creativity, and determination of people to live and provide for their families, even in the most difficult circumstances. Our challenge as outsiders is to find ways of tapping and unleashing the inherent creativity of people to mobilize resources, come together, and solve their own problems.

— James D. Wolfensohn, President, The World Bank, April 1998


Other good ones…

“We regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap warranting endless competition among us, but as a deliberate act of God to make us a community of brothers and sisters jointly involved in the quest for a composite answer to the varied problems of life.”

— Steven Biko, Black South African activist

“Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.”

— William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

— Thomas Edison

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

— Anatole France

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction.”

— Mahatma Gandhi, July 20, 1925

“It is by Love that we can fully enter into that harmony with others which alone constitutes our own reality and the reality of the universe.”

— Avatar Meher Baba

“We conceive the universe as a spiritual whole, made up of individuals, who have no existence except as manifestations of the whole; as the whole, on the other hand, has no existence except as manifested in them.”

— Avatar Meher Baba

“To develop the drop of compassion in our own heart is the only effective spiritual response to hatred and violence.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

— Martin Luther

“We will only be mighty when we turn our enemy into our friend.”

— Rabbi Sydney Mintz, Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, October, 2000

“Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

— Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

“There are some things only governments can do, such as negotiating binding agreements. But there are some things that only citizens outside government can do, such as changing human relationships.”

— Dr. Harold Saunders, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Negotiator of the Camp David Accords

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“Any organization, institution, government, or civilization which inhibits, innocently or not, the free movement of ideas and opinions about those ideas–up, down, and across its organizational and societal structures–is depriving itself of its greatest resource–human thought–and is in grave danger of being buried in history by the avalanche of the creativity of others.”

— Dick Spady, President of the Forum Foundation, from The Leadership of Civilization Building, 2002, p. 277

“It isn’t a mistake to have strong views. The mistake is to have nothing else.”

— Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments (Hackett)

“All social change begins with a conversation.”

— Margaret J. Wheatley

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and help them become what they are capable of being.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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  1. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    Here’s a good one to add…

    “We have a choice about how we behave, and that means we have the choice to opt for
    civility and grace.” – Dwight Currie

  2. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    About a shift from partisan politics to problem-solving:

    “I suspect we will see another mass movement. This movement will ask Americans to live up to their best selves…to build institutions to support the leaders who make the hard bargains. As in the civil rights era, politicians won’t make big changes unless they are impelled and protected by social upsurge.”
    – David Brooks, New York Times

  3. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    On partisan politics…

    “Like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, we don’t realize that the heat is killing us until it is too late…This cycle of incitement—where extremes inflame and empower each other—will make our politics more of an ideological bloodsport and less about actually solving problems.”
    – John Avlon, Daily Beast/Newsweek

  4. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    A great one to add to the mix…

    “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr

  5. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    Another one to add…

    “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.”
    – George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950

  6. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    “For a long time the way government has worked – top-down, top-heavy, controlling – has frequently had the effect of sapping responsibility, local innovation and civic action. It has turned many motivated public sector workers into disillusioned, weary puppets of government targets. It has turned able, capable individuals into passive recipients of state help with little hope for a better future. It has turned lively communities into dull, soulless clones of one another. So we need to turn government completely on its head. The rule of this government should be this: If it unleashes community engagement – we should do it. If it crushes it – we shouldn’t..”

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron, July 19, 2010

  7. Sandy Heierbacher Says:

    One of add: “The power of the small group cannot be overemphasized. Something almost mystical, certainly mysterious, occurs when citizens sit in a small group, for they often become more authentic and personal with each other there than in other settings.” (From Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging)

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