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 flag that was the symbol of slavery on the high seas for a long time was not the Confederate battle flag, it was sadly the Stars and Stripes.

— Alan Keyes

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

An immigrant, living in the slums of New York City, once said of himself and others of the sweatshop community to which he belonged, “We live under America, not in America.”

— Anna Garlin Spencer

As a general point, the United States has an extreme budget commitment to prisons, guns, warplanes, armored vehicles, detention facilities, courts, jails, drones, and patrols – to law and order, meted out discriminately.

— Annie Lowrey

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

You know what the issue is? Do you want to know? It’s what these guys have decided to call America. They have the audacity to say, ‘There, you sons of bitches, don’t lay a finger on it. That is a finished product.’

But any country is still in the making. Always. That’s just history, people have to see that.

— Barbara Kingsolver

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

America Is A Gun
England is a cup of tea.
France, a wheel of ripened brie.
Greece, a short, squat olive tree.
America is a gun.
Brazil is football on the sand.
Argentina, Maradona’s hand.
Germany, an oompah band.
America is a gun.
Holland is a wooden shoe.
Hungary, a goulash stew.
Australia, a kangaroo.
America is a gun.
Japan is a thermal spring.
Scotland is a highland fling.
Oh, better to be anything
than America as a gun.

— Brian Bilston

Every Black person you meet is a miracle… We are valuable because of our humanity and declared valuable because our ancestors declared our worth when they fought for us to live.

— Brittany Packnett

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

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.

— Colin Kaepernick

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

The United States is regarded by people everywhere as a dream come true, a sort of world state in miniature. Here dwell the world’s emigrants under one law, and the law is: Thou shalt not push thy neighbor around. By some curious divinity which in him lies, Man, in this experiment of mixed races and mixed creeds, has turned out more good than bad, more right than wrong, more kind than cruel, and more sinned against than sinning. This is the world’s hope and its chance.

— E.B. White, The Wild Flag: Editorials from the New Yorker on Federal World Government and Other Matters (published 1943-1946)

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

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?

— Ernest Gaines

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
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