Inspiration from, and for, the commons

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

But, around this time of year, I always feel like I could use a little extra inspiration.

And, so, in the interest of finishing 2013 strong, I’m sharing some of my favorite social justice-related quotes, and hoping that you’ll share yours, too.

I was 7 years old when I received my first book of Bartlett’s quotations, as a birthday present, because I have always been fascinated by words–how they move people, and how we organize them.

I still collect them, not so much for who said a particular phrase, but for the glimpses of insight–new or just repackaged–that they offer.

Stay awhile, be inspired, and, then, leave your own mark.

  • “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.” ― Ernesto Guevara
    This one reminds me of Sister Berta, the tireless advocate for children in poverty who started Operation Breakthrough, here in Kansas City. In a meeting earlier this year, she pounded the table and demanded to know why there isn’t more outrage about what poor children endure in our community. I didn’t have an answer, and I still don’t, but I know that she inspires me to get angry, all the time.

  • “In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
    I posted a photo of this from the FDR Memorial this summer. It’s as true now as then.

  • “An educator should consider that he has failed in his job if he has not succeeded in instilling some trace of a divine dissatisfaction with our miserable social environment. ” ― Anthony Standen
    I discovered this one during an Internet search for something else, and I think it’s sort of my new professional mission statement. We cannot adjust to injustice.

  • “In the unceasing ebb and flow of justice and oppression we must all dig channels as best we may, that at the propitious moment somewhat of the swelling tide may be conducted to the barren places of life.” ― Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House
    I love this. I love the hopefulness of it, the resolute sense that we must persevere even when we don’t know when or how good may come. I love the recognition of the role of serendipity. I love that we are both social workers.

  • “Every good law or case you study was once a dream. Every good law or case you study was dismissed as impossible or impractical for decades before it was enacted. Give your creative thoughts free reign, for it is only in the hearts and dreams of people seeking a better world that true social justice has a chance. Finally, remember that we cannot give what we do not have. If we do not love ourselves, we will be hard pressed to love others. If we are not just with ourselves, we will find it very difficult to look for justice with others. In order to become and remain a social justice advocate, you must live a healthy life. Take care of yourself as well as others. Invest in yourself as well as in others. No one can build a house of justice on a foundation of injustice. Love yourself and be just to yourself and do the same with others. As you become a social justice advocate, you will experience joy, inspiration and love in abundant measure.” ― Bill Quigley
    I had to look him up, I liked this so much. The first part is my favorite: every social program we now take for granted first existed only in someone’s imagination. We should be dreaming bigger dreams, people.

What’s on a sticky note affixed to your computer? Or taped on the wall by your bed? Or on a magnet on your refrigerator?

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One response to “Inspiration from, and for, the commons

  1. “Remember Dimbaza. Remember Botshabelo/Onverwacht, South End, East Bank, Sophiatown, Makuleke, Cato Manor. Remember District Six. Remember the racism which took away our homes and our livelihood and which sought to steal away our humanity. Remember also our will to live, to hold fast to that which marks us as human beings: Our generosity, our love of justice and our care for each other. Remember Tramway Road, Modderdam, Simonstown.

    In remembering, we do not want to recreate District Six but to work with its memory: Of hurts inflicted and received, of loss, achievements and of shames. We wish to remember so that we can all, together and by ourselves, rebuild a city which belongs to all of us, in which all of us can live, not as races but as people.”

    I have no author attribution; this came from the District Six museum in Cape Town, South Africa. District Six was a vibrant, multicultural community until after the Whites Only Group Act in 1966, it was bulldozed and all the people relocated outside of Cape Town. After stealing it, the land was not even utilized, and contains many vacant lots to this day.

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