Responsibility

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Responsibility is the state of being "responsible", or answerable for an act performed or for its consequences, especially morally, legally, or politically.

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  • For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us—recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state—our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:

    First, were we truly men of courage—with the courage to stand up to one's enemies—and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's associates—the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?

    Secondly, were we truly men of judgment—with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past—of our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others—with enough wisdom to know what we did not know and enough candor to admit it.

    Third, were we truly men of integrity—men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in us—men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?

    Finally, were we truly men of dedication—with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and comprised of no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?

    Courage—judgment—integrity—dedication—these are the historic qualities … which, with God's help … will characterize our Government's conduct in the 4 stormy years that lie ahead.
    • John F. Kennedy, address to the Massachusetts legislature (January 9, 1961); Congressional Record (January 10, 1961), vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169.
  • Upon the standard to which the wise and honest will now repair it is written: "You have lived the easy way; henceforth, you will live the hard way…. You came into a great heritage made by the insight and the sweat and the blood of inspired and devoted and courageous men; thoughtlessly and in utmost self-indulgence you have all but squandered this inheritance. Now only by the heroic virtues which made this inheritance can you restore it again…. You took the good things for granted. Now you must earn them again…. For every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill. For every hope that you entertain, you have a task that you must perform. For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer".
    • Walter Lippmann, speech to the Harvard Class of 1910 at their thirtieth reunion (June 18, 1940); Walter Lippmann papers, Yale University Library. President Jimmy Carter quoted from the latter part of this passage, with slight variations, in his State of the Union address to Congress (January 23, 1980). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1980–81, book 1, p. 200.
  • 'Am I responsible or are you', a senior official asked his pilot, dubiously beginning a flight to Baghdad, 'for seeing that this machine is not overloaded?' 'That will have to be decided at the inquest.'
  • Physical misery is great everywhere out here [Africa]. Are we justified in shutting our eyes and ignoring it because our European newspapers tell us nothing about it? We civilised people have been spoilt. If any one of us is ill the doctor comes at once. Is an operation necessary, the door of some hospital or other opens to us immediately. But let every one reflect on the meaning of the fact that out here millions and millions live without help or hope of it. Every day thousands and thousands endure the most terrible sufferings, though medical science could avert them. Every day there prevails in many and many a far-off hut a despair which we could banish. Will each of my readers think what the last ten years of his family history would have been if they had been passed without medical or surgical help of any sort? It is time that we should wake from slumber and face our responsibilities!
    • Albert Schweitzer, On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, trans. C. T. Campion (1948, reprinted 1976), p. 115.
  • With great power there must also come — great responsibility!
    • Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962 (the first Spider-Man story)
    • Variant: "With great power comes great responsibility."
      • Possibly used in Isaac Asimov's novella "The Bicentennial Man" (1976)
      • "Uncle" Ben Parker, in Spider-Man (2002).
      • The saying, however, long pre-dates these sources, appearing in print in a number of variants since at least 1817 (Thomas C. Hansard, ed (1817). Parliamentary Debates. p. 1227. Retrieved on October 10, 2013. "He should, however, beg leave to remind the conductors of the press of their duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government —"that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility." ).

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