Power Quotes

**Note: for the past 20 or so years, I’ve been obsessively amassing quotations. These didn’t all arrive together, they’ve built up over time. This collection on power is like all the other ones in this section; I thought it would be cool to see what I had, did a search through the document I collect quotations in, & look what came up!! (It’s a pretty powerful collection, I gotta say!!)

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

Power is just like electricity; it can light the room or it can electrocute you.” – Margaret Atwood

“It’s antithetical to the definition of power in this culture that a person might derive power by service rather than control, but that’s the essence of midwifery.” – Elizabeth Davis, Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy and Birth (quoted in Rob Brezsny’s Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia)

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel 

“Everyone has the power of greatness; not for fame, but greatness. Because greatness is determined by service.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968 (more MLK quotes here)

“This is the fire that will help the generations to come, if they use it in a sacred manner. But if they do not use it well, the fire will have the power to do them great harm.” ~ Sioux Native American saying

“On the power of small things: When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion.” ~ Ethiopian proverb quoted in Living More with Less 

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance that no-one could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ Goethe

“Things worth remembering: the value of time…the success of perseverance…the dignity of simplicity…the worth of character…the virtue of patience…the wisdom of economy…the power of kindness.” ~ A ‘Gem of the Day’ from Ann Landers

“Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life.” ~ Norman Cousins

“True democracy is only possible when people have effective power over their own affairs, their own goals, and their own resources. The larger the governing unit, the less responsive it is to human needs, the more bureaucratic and inefficient its administration. Government, we must always remind ourselves, is not (or should not be) a professionally organized system to tell people how to run their affairs; it is (or should be) a means whereby people themselves are enabled to resolve matters in their own community.” ~ John Papworth in Putting Power In Its Place

“Life is a passion of activity, or it is nothing. Genuine democracy rests, not upon an attitude of pleased expectation of receiving, not upon an irresponsible sense of liberty to work one’s will, but upon unflinching self-surrender, unceasing activity in behalf of the common good. Services must be voluntarily rendered, often more strenuous than those exacted by superiors under the old feudal order. For democracy is a stern and lofty creed of willing self-denial, of responsibilities staunchly borne, or it is a chaos and a failure, a stampede of the masses for power or for gain.” – Margaret Sherwood, 1918

“Do not pray for easy life. Pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” – Phillips Brooks

“A voice is a human gift. It should be cherished & used. Powerlessness & silence go together.” – Margaret Atwood

“Never give up on what you really want to do – the person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” – Anon

“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” – Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator

“Poverty is not a fact of life but a result of sin by the powerful and therefore a cause of God’s wrath.” – Gustavo Gutierrez 

Tommy Douglas on Fascism: “Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt – it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.”

“Vice President Cheney tells us we need to build one new giant power plant a week. He fails to tell us that at this very moment entrepreneurs are installing 20 to 30 new power plants each day: basement and backyard microturbines and fuel cells, rooftop solar cells, wind turbines. A new industry is being born before our very eyes.” – David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Sojourner (Nov.Dec. 2001)

“Are we at the crisis point? We’re way beyond it. The crisis point was thirty years ago. Aldous Huxley said, in the 1930s, that the greatest danger was that people would come to love their servitude. The crisis comes from not only the reality of that, but also from the fact that this economic model that people have bought into is completely unsustainable in environmental and social terms. It gives the greatest power to a small number of people who happen to be chewing up the planet at a fantastic rate. That whole model of consumption and corporate celebration and living by corporate models is killing us, and will continue to do so until everything collapses – which, judging from climate change, ozone depletion and other measurements, could be fairly soon.” ~ Jerry Mander, quoted in Adbusters, Nov/Dec 2001 issue

“The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” – Einstein (1946) [more Einstein quotes here]

“For all their power and vitality, markets are only tools. They make a good servant but a bad master and a worse religion. They can be used to accomplish many important tasks, but they can’t do everything, and it’s a dangerous delusion to begin to believe that they can – especially when they threaten to replace ethics or politics.” – Amory B. Lovins in Natural Capitalism

“Failure or success seem to have been allotted to men by their stars. But they retain the power of wriggling, of fighting their star or against it, and in the whole universe the only really interesting movement is this wriggle.” – E.M. Forster

“Sometimes, power is letting go. We must reclaim feminism as that which makes women stronger in ways that each woman is entitled to define for herself. Ironically, this “letting go” of the rigorous litmus tests of feminism will not make us lose the power of consensus that we have, the common insider fear; it will expand and enrich what we have and draw in millions more. A feminism worthy of its name will fit every woman, and every man who cares about women, comfortably.” – Naomi Wolf in Fire with Fire

The Dalai Lama in 1992, after visiting the Greenpeace boat, the Rainbow Warrior, at Rio’s Earth Summit: “It’s a small boat, a little untidy. But it’s a very powerful symbol and the spirit on board is impressive. I was very inspired by that feeling, and it made my spirit stronger too.”

“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” – Alex Carey

“I consider it a privilege to be at the side of an incredible, powerful woman who’s changing the world, while doing the same – without the need to compete, dominate, or submit.” – Avi Lewis, partner of Naomi Klein

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass, Canandaigua, N.Y. 3, Aug. 1857

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” – Thomas Jefferson, third US President, architect and author (1743-1826)

Brenda Ueland on creativity:  “Why should we all use our creative power? … Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” – Brenda Ueland (American writer, 1891-1985)

“The willingness to be responsible without complaining puts you into the natural flow of all divine energy. It keeps you from having to fight the world, allowing you to go with it. Everything that you complain about puts you in a position of figuratively having to take arms against it and fight. Everything that you need to fight weakens you, while that which you are for empowers you.” – Martin Luther King

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth” (more Joseph Campbell quotes here)

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” – Thomas Edison (1847–1931)

“The universe oozes with power, waiting for anyone who wishes to embrace it.” – mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, author of The Universe is a Green Dragon, quoted in Matthew Fox’s The Coming of the Cosmic Christ – The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance (Pg. 40)

Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Hope for the earth lies not with leaders but in your own heart and soul. If you decide to save the earth, it will be saved. Each person can be as powerful as the most powerful person who ever lived – and that is you, if you love this planet.” – Helen Caldicott, M.D. (writer & activist) 

“The truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used French-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system or even a fraction of these things in the future. We have to make other arrangements.” ~ James Howard Kunstler, author of World Made by Hand in an article published in the Washington Post on May 30/08.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it. My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail. I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best a part of my life . . . No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” – Helen Keller

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid.” – Audre Lourde, 1934-92

“However smart we be, however rich and clever or loving or charitable or spiritual or impeccable, it doesn’t help us at all. The real power comes in to us from the beyond. Life enters us from behind, where we are sightless, and from below, where we do not understand. And unless we yield to the beyond, and take our power and might and honor and glory from the unseen, from the unknown, we shall continue empty.” D.H. Lawrence

“Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healings. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” ~ Starhawk

“Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.” G. K. Chesterton

“The power within the more you give, the more you have to give will still be our source when coal and oil are long gone, and atoms are left to spin in peace.” – Gary Snyder “Turtle Island” 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? … We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

“There is no greater power on Earth than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo