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Speaking Up

  • I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. 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.

  • ... thinking beings have an urge to speak, speaking beings have an urge to think.

  • A word is the taste / our tongue has of eternity; / that's why I speak.

    • Rosario Castellanos,
    • "The Splendor of Being," in Magda Bogin, trans., The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos ()
  • Speaking and silence are both survival tools.

  • My seat has been the seat of kings, and I will have no rascal to succeed me.

    • Elizabeth I,
    • 1603, in Mrs. Jameson, Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns ()
  • Don't make it necessary for me to complain about you to Christ crucified. (There is no one else I can complain to, since there is no one greater than you on earth.)

    • Catherine of Siena,
    • letter to Pope Gregory XI (1376), in Suzanne Noffke, trans., The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena ()
  • I am the voice of the voiceless; / Through me the dumb shall speak; / Till the deaf world's ear be made to hear / The cry of the wordless weak. / ... / And I am my brother's keeper, / And I will fight his fight, / And speak the word for beast and bird, / Till the world shall set things right.

  • To sin by silence, when we should protest, / Makes cowards out of men.

  • I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent.

  • Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth's sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.

    • Louisa May Alcott,
    • letter to Lucy Stone (1885), in Elizabeth Keyser, The Portable Louisa May Alcott ()
  • ... shall I, for fear of feeble man who shall die, hold my peace? Shall I for fear of scoffs and frowns, refrain my tongue? Ah, no!

  • In order to create an alternative an oppressed group must at once shatter the self-reflecting world which encircles it and, at the same time, project its own image onto history.

  • ... to know how to say what others only know how to think, is what makes men poets or sages; and to dare to say what others only dare to think, makes men martyrs or reformers, or both.

  • ... I began to be quite outrageous, and told him all I conceived of him; uttering several bold truths, not in the least to the advantage of his character.

  • The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer into our souls. Every truth we see is one to give to the world, not to keep to ourselves alone ...

  • ... the decision to speak out is the vocation and life-long peril by which the intellectual must live.

    • Kay Boyle,
    • in James Vinson, ed., Contemporary Novelists ()
  • One speaks on behalf of others, one acts on behalf of oneself.

  • [To the bishop who suggested the widowed queen now consider herself 'as married to Christ':] That's what I call twaddle!

    • Queen Victoria,
    • 1861, in Timothy B. Benford, The Royal Family Quiz and Fact Book ()
  • I have one thing in common with the emerging black nations of Africa: We both have voices, and we are discovering what we can do with them.

  • [On refusing to be silenced:] I do not pretend to be John the Baptist rebuking the Pharisees. I do not claim to be Nathan upbraiding David. I aspire only to be Balaam's ass, castigating his master.

    • Katherine Zell,
    • in Ruth A. Tucker and Walter L. Liefelt, Daughters of the Church ()
  • i've repeated my never spent agony / ... / so i'm writing it again / one more time in black and white with hope that / someone out there will at last / get it straight.

  • I don't believe in that 'no comment' business. I always have a comment.

  • ... you must cry out if you want help. It is no use whatsoever to suffer in silence. Who will succour the drowning man if he does not clamour for his life?

  • I'm Calamity Jane. Get to hell out of here and let me alone.

    • Calamity Jane,
    • 1873, in Duncan Aikman, Calamity Jane and the Lady Wildcats ()
  • Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

  • [When asked why she was more qualified to be governor than the Republican incumbent Jim Edgar:] To be perfectly blunt, I'm much more intelligent. I'm sorry, but it's true.

  • [To the heckler who said, 'If you were my wife I'd poison you':] No, you wouldn't. I'd do it myself.

  • I have never had a vote, and I have raised hell all over this country. You don't need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!

    • Mother Jones,
    • in Mary Field Parton, ed., The Autobiography of Mother Jones ()
  • Foolish modesty lags behind while brazen impudence goes forth and eats the pudding.

  • I believe it is the responsibility and duty of those in high-profile positions to give a voice to people whose voices cannot be heard.

  • Powerlessness and silence go together. We ... should use our privileged positions not as a shelter from the world's reality, but as a platform from which to speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • "Amnesty International: An Address" (1981), in Second Words: Selected Critical Prose ()
  • Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.

  • ... one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.