Power means the ability to do something, to exert strength or force, to direct or influence the behavior of others, or to influence the outcome of events. Sages have expressed a variety of opinions about power and when it is a virtue, when it is a vice, and when it is a neutral tool.

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Power is the flower of organization.

— A. Philip Randolph

Smoking dope and hanging up Che’s picture is no more a commitment than drinking milk and collecting postage stamps. A revolution in consciousness is an empty high without a revolution in the distribution of power.

— Abbie Hoffman

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

— Abigail Adams

Friends, I agree with you in Providence; but I believe in the Providence of the most men, the largest purse, and the longest cannon. [1854]

— Abraham Lincoln

These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.

— Abraham Lincoln

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow.

— Abraham Lincoln

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among human creatures.

— Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

— Abraham Lincoln

The term ‘power’ comes from the Latin posse: to do, to be able, to change, to influence or effect. To have power is to possess the capacity to control or direct change. All forms of leadership must make use of power. The central issue of power in leadership is not Will it be used? But rather Will it be used wisely and well?

— Al Gini

[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.

— Albert Camus

If we perpetuate the same dynamics that we aim to disrupt in our movements for change, we are not interrupting power and we are not creating change –we are merely rebranding the same set of practices and the same dysfunctions.

— Alicia Garza, The Purpose of Power

The world that we imagine will not come into existence if we are not courageous enough to challenge power where it operates at the largest scale, impacting the lives of millions, even billions of people.

— Alicia Garza, The Purpose of Power

Power is what calls the shots, and power is a white male game.

— Ann Richards

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.

— Anne Bradstreet

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.

— Anne Lamott

Those lower in rank revolt in order that they may be equal and those higher in rank that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions.

— Aristotle

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.

— Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

— Audre Lorde

The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.

— Audre Lorde

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never allow us to bring about genuine change.

— Audre Lorde

We are powerful because we have survived.

— Audre Lorde

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.

— Audrey Hepburn

No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change.

— Barbara de Angelis

Ambition is the immoderate desire for power.

— Baruch Spinoza

The primary function of a religious society is to ‘speak the truth to power.’

— Bayard Rustin

There is a strong moralistic strain in the civil rights movement that would remind us that power corrupts, forgetting that the absence of power also corrupts.

— Bayard Rustin

The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.

— bell hooks

If any female feels she need anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power to be self-defining, her agency.

— bell hooks

Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.

— bell hooks

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

— Booker T. Washington
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Image from Adobe, under license.

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