Patriotism is support of and devotion to one’s country. For some, that means asserting one’s country can do no wrong. For others, it means to work to make the country the best it can be. Here you’ll find some quotations on patriotism from many perspectives and authors.

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Patriotism ruins history.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

— John F. Kennedy

I saw courage both in the Vietnam War and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest, not just military service.

— John Kerry

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

— John Stuart Mill

Patriotism is not so much protecting the land of our fathers as preserving the land of our children.

— José Ortega y Gasset

Those who won our independence… valued liberty as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.

— Louis D. Brandeis

When Socrates was asked where he came from, he said that he was a citizen of the world. He regarded himself as a citizen of the universe.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism: The right to criticize. The right to hold unpopular beliefs. The right to protest. The right of independent thought.

— Margaret Chase Smith

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.

— Margaret Chase Smith

My creed is that public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration, that constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought, that smears are not only to be expected but fought, that honor is to be earned, not bought.

— Margaret Chase Smith

Many public-school children seem to know only two dates — 1492 and the 4th of July; and as a rule they don’t know what happened on either occasion.

— Mark Twain

The nation is divided, half patriots and half traitors, and no man can tell which from which.

— Mark Twain

The government is merely a servant — merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.

— Mark Twain

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let me label you as they may.

— Mark Twain

It was as a socialist, and because I was a socialist, that I fell in love with America. In saying that I am not indulging in romantic nostalgia about youthful days on the road but rather underlining a crucial political truth. If the Left wants to change this country because it hates it, then the people will never listen to the Left and the people will be right. To be a socialist — to be a Marxist — is to make an act of faith, of love even, toward this land. It is to sense the seed beneath the snow; to see, beneath the veneer of corruption and meanness and the commercialization of human relationships, men and women capable of controlling their own destinies.

— Michael Harrington

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi

If you want a symbolic gesture, don’t burn the flag; wash it.

— Norman Thomas

Fascists use patriotism and religion to manipulate dumb people. Fascist propaganda works best on the dumbest of the dumb. They don’t know when they’re being lied to.

— Oliver Markus Malloy, American Fascism: A German Writer’s Urgent Warning To America

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.

— Orson Welles

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

— Pablo Casals

I am blessed to live in a democracy, not a totalitarian state. But the democracy I cherish is constantly threatened by a brand of politics that clothes avarice and the arrogance of power in patriotic and religious garb.

— Parker J. Palmer

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

— Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! [March 23, 1775]

— Patrick Henry

The only real nation is humanity.

— Paul Farmer

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom. The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity. This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.

— Rabbi Sherwin Wine

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals, 1824

We pass and leave you lying. No need for rhetoric, for funeral music, for melancholy bugle-calls. No need for tears now, no need for regret. We took our risk with you; you died and we live. We take your noble gift, salute for the last time those lines of pitiable crosses, those solitary mounds, those unknown graves, and turn to live our lives out as we may. Which of us were fortunate — who can tell? For you there is silence and cold twilight drooping in awful desolation over those motionless lands. For us sunlight and the sound of women’s voices, song and hope and laughter, despair, gaiety, love — life. Lost terrible silent comrades, we, who might have died, salute you.

— Richard Aldington

Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility. Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on its own dunghill.

— Richard Aldington

He loves his country best who strives to make it best.

— Robert G. Ingersoll

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

— Samuel Johnson

Intellectually I know that America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every country.

— Sinclair Lewis

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.

— Sinclair Lewis, misattributed, was James Waterman Wise: a description of Sinclair’s point about nationalism and religion in It Can’t Happen Here

Under this linguistic strategy, the New Right relabeled its resistance to women’s newly acquired reproductive rights as ‘pro-life’; its opposition to women’s newly embraced sexual freedom became ‘pro-chastity’; and its hostility to women’s mass entry into the work force became ‘pro-motherhood.’ Finally, the New Right renamed itself — its regressive and negative stance against the progress of women’s rights became ‘pro-family.’ . . .

In the ’20’s, the Ku Klux Klan had built support with a similar rhetorical maneuver, downplaying their racism and recasting it as patriotism; they weren’t lynching blacks, they were moral reformers defending the flag.

— Susan Faludi

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, ‘the greatest,’ but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.

— Sydney J. Harris

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest,” but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.

— Sydney J. Harris

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

— Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

The people cannot be all, and always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.

— Thomas Jefferson

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

— Thomas Paine

Who serves his country well has no need of ancestors.

— Voltaire

Patriotism does not oblige us to acquiesce in the destruction of liberty. Patriotism obliges us to question it, at least.

— Wendy Kaminer

The cry has been that when war is declared, all opposition should be hushed. A sentiment more unworthy of a free country could hardly be propagated.

— William Ellery Channing

A wise traveler never despises his own country.

— William Hazlitt

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.

— William O. Douglas

I will fight for my country, but I will not lie for her.

— Zora Neale Hurston
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