Speaking out

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Speaking out is the action of asserting or promoting one's opinion, or of making one's thoughts known publicly, rather than keeping silent about them.


  • Try to raise a voice that shall be heard from here to Albany and watch what it is that comes forward to shut off the sound. It is not a German sergeant, nor a Russian officer of the precinct. It is a note from a friend of your father's offering you a place in his office. This is your warning from the secret police. Why, if any of you young gentlemen have a mind to get heard a mile off, you must make a bonfire of your reputation, and a close enemy of most men who wish you well.
    And what will you get in return? Well, if I must for the benefit of the economists, charge you up with some selfish gain, I will say that you get the satisfaction of having been heard, and that this is the whole possible scope of human ambition.
    • John Jay Chapman, "The Unity of Human Nature," address delivered before the Hobart Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Hobart College, Geneva, New York, on commencement day (June 20, 1900); republished in Chapman, Learning and Other Essays (1910, reprinted 1968), p. 185.
  • Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws—but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted—when we tolerate what we know to be wrong—when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened—when we fail to speak up and speak out—we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.
    • Robert F. Kennedy, remarks before the Joint Defense Appeal of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith, Chicago, Illinois (June 21, 1961); republished in Robert F. Kennedy and Bill Adler, ed., A New Day (1968), p. 26.
  • Singular indeed that the people should be writhing under oppression and injury, and yet not one among them to be found, to raise the voice of complaint.
    • Abraham Lincoln, remarks in the Illinois legislature (January 11, 1837), in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1 (1953), p. 65. A related expression is, "You must be vocal at all times on political matters, pro or con, voicing your opinion so that it may be heard by those who govern," attributed to David L. Lawrence, governor of Pennsylvania 1958–1962. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • The historian should be fearless and incorruptible; a man of independence, loving frankness and truth; one who, as the poet says, calls a fig a fig and a spade a spade. He should yield to neither hatred nor affection, but should be unsparing and unpitying. He should be neither shy nor deprecating, but an impartial judge, giving each side all it deserves but no more. He should know in his writings no country and no city; he should bow to no authority and acknowledge no king. He should never consider what this or that man will think, but should state the facts as they really occurred.
    • Lucian, How History Should Be Written (De Historia Conscribenda); in George Seldes, ed., The Great Thoughts (1985), p. 251.
  • When Hitler attacked the Jews … I was not a Jew, therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church—and there was nobody left to be concerned.
    • Attributed to Martin Niemöller, Congressional Record (October 14, 1968), vol. 114, p. 31636. This statement has not been documented in biographies of Niemöller, nor was it contained in the 1945 Stuttgart Statement of Guilt, but the attribution is widely accepted.
  • There is such a thing as freedom of speech in this country. It is a constitutional right. Too often these days when people speak out on certain matters there are attempts to intimidate or muzzle them and breach their rights by throwing allegations of racism or making hate speeches.
    • Apisai Tora, speech before the Fiji Senate (24 August 2004); reported in the Fiji Times (25 August 2004).

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