face and part of the arm of the Statue of Liberty, against deep blue sky

Quotations about America (the common short way to say The United States of America). What does America mean to different people, in different places, in different times? What does it mean to you?

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The American way of life is not sustainable. It doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.

— Arundhati Roy

In America, anybody can be president. That’s one of the risks you take.

— Adlai E. Stevenson II

What do I believe? As an American I believe in generosity, in liberty, in the rights of man. These are social and political faiths that are part of me, as they are, I suppose, part of all of us. Such beliefs are easy to express. But part of me too is my relation to all life, my religion. And this is not so easy to talk about. Religious experience is highly intimate and, for me, ready words are not at hand.

— Adlai Stevenson

The South, which is peopled with ardent and irascible beings, is becoming more irritated and alarmed.

— Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

… being American is …
the past we step into
and how we repair it.

— Amanda Gorman

When you live in the United States, with the roar of the free market, the roar of this huge military power, the roar of being at the heart of empire, it’s hard to hear the whispering of the rest of the world. And I think many US citizens want to. I don’t think that all of them necessarily are co-conspirators in this concept of empire. And those who are not, need to listen to other stories in the world – other voices, other people.

— Arundhati Roy, The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

— Barack Obama

It is important for this country to make its people so obsessed with their own liberal individualism that they do not have time to think about a world larger than self.

— bell hooks, Black Genius: African-American Solutions to African-American Problems

American families have always shown remarkable resiliency, or flexible adjustment to natural, economic, and social challenges. Their strengths resemble the elasticity of a spider web, a gull’s skillful flow with the wind, the regenerating power of perennial grasses, the cooperation of an ant colony, and the persistence of a stream carving canyon rocks. These are not the strengths of fixed monuments but living organisms. This resilience is not measured by wealth, muscle or efficiency but by creativity, unity, and hope. Cultivating these family strengths is critical to a thriving human community.

— Ben Silliman, Family Life Specialist with the University of Wyoming’s Cooperative Extension Service

The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country — when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’

— Carl Schurz

Bart Giamatti did not grow up (as he had dreamed) to play second base for the Red Sox. He became a professor at Yale, and then, in time . . . president of the National Baseball League. He never lost his love for the Boston Red Sox. It was as a Red Sox fan, he later realized that human beings are fallen, and that life is filled with disappointment. The path to comprehending Calvinism in modern America, he decided, begins at Fenway Park.

— David Halverstam

America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still.

— e. e. cummings

I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.

— Edward Kennedy

This thing they say of “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is all on paper. It doesn’t really mean anything to us. The only way we can make this thing a reality in America is to do all we can to destroy this system and bring this out to the light that has been under the cover all these years.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

It’s time for America to get right.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

If this is a Great Society, I’d hate to see a bad one.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

America that is divided against itself cannot stand, and we cannot say we have all of this unity they say we have when black people are being discriminated against in every city in America I have visited.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

Actually, the world and America is upset and the only way to bring about a change is to upset it more.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

It is our right to stay here and we will stay and stand up for what belongs to us as American citizens, because they can’t say that we haven’t had patience.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

The only thing I really feel is necessary is that the black people, not only in Mississippi, will have to actually upset this applecart. What I mean by that is, so many things are under the cover that will have to be swept out and shown to this whole world, not just to America. This thing they say of “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is all on paper.

— Fannie Lou Hamer

People are asking me about the race problem…. I know of no race problem. The great problem that confronts the American people to-day is a national problem — whether this great nation of ours is great enough to live up to its own convictions, carry out its own declaration of independence, and execute the provisions of its own constitution.

— Frederick Douglass

In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.

— Gertrude Stein

Americans are very friendly and very suspicious, that is what Americans are and that is what always upsets the foreigner, who deals with them, they are so friendly how can they be so suspicious they are so suspicious how can they be so friendly but they just are.

— Gertrude Stein

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

— Henry A. Wallace

The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth. Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think. When we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.

— Howard Zinn

People like Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, Jack London and Upton Sinclair were wonderful writers who joined the movement against war and injustice, against capitalism and corporate power. That was a very exciting period in American history.

— Howard Zinn

One thing I’ve learned is that at the core of white privilege is the entitlement to amnesia and ignorance. To forget that America was founded on stolen land, stolen labor, and genocide, and that we live in a society structured by this history, is to embrace an identity rooted in a false innocence and a flight from truth and healing. This is the rot at the root of the nation.

— Jabari S. Jones

I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

— James Baldwin

The American people, as a nation, knew not what they were fighting for till recently, and many have different opinions now as to the ends and results of the contest. But there is but two results possible, one is slavery and poverty and the other is liberty and prosperity.

— James Henry Gooding, On the Altar of Freedom: A Black Soldier’s Civil War Letters from the Front

Everything that everyone is afraid of has already happened: The fragility of capitalism, which we don’t want to admit; the loss of the empire of the United States; and American exceptionalism. In fact, American exceptionalism is that we are exceptionally backward in about fifteen different categories, from education to infrastructure.

— James Hillman
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