Quotes (7)

The meaning of civilization itself is, I believe, to be found in a few simple principles.

  • War is a terrible thing. You had better be sure you know what you are doing when you engage in it.
  • Certainty is a wonderful thing when deployed in defense of the defenseless and downtrodden; at all other times, it is suspect.
  • Power does not last – even superpower; art and culture do.
  • Cruelty and generosity last, too.
  • Most people never got to be kings or queens, dukes or duchesses. Most people were underdogs, caught up in vast historical forces beyond their control.
    • We should, I think, resist the temptation to think that we are somehow different, immune from the political, social, economic, or cultural tidal waves of history.
    • We should not laugh at our predecessors, even at their most ridiculous, for someday we, too, will look ridiculous to our successors.
    • We should spare a thought for the underdog.
  • Finally, (…) civilization is fragile; it has broken repeatedly.
    • It is not a building, or a book, or a law.
    • It is a conscious act of respect and consideration.
    • That act grows out of what we learn, what we teach our children.
  • The final lesson of civilization and its history is contained in the following inscription from a bench at my alma mater, Cornell:
    To those who shall sit here rejoicing,
    To those who shall sit here in mourning,
    Sympathy and Greeting;
    So have we done in our time.

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