Quotes that Changed the World


“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

– Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:7

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

Exodus 22, King James Version

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”

The Buddha

“You, men of England, who have no right to this Kingdom of France, the King of Heaven orders and notifies you through me, Joan the Maiden, to leave your fortresses and go back to your own country; or I will produce a clash of arms to be eternally remembered.”

Joan of Arc, 1431

“Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government. They receive it with their being from the hand of nature. Individuals exercise it by their single will; collections of men by that of their majority; for the law of the majority is the natural law of every society of men.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Love is my religion – I could die for it.”

John Keats

“That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”


“I do earnestly wish to see the distinction of sex confounded in society, unless where love animates the behaviour.”

Mary Wollstonecraft

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. “

J F Kennedy. Inaugural Address, – January 20th 1961

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

“The happiest people I have known have been those who gave themselves no concern about their own souls, but did their uttermost to mitigate the miseries of others.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, History of Woman Suffrage, Volumes I-III

“Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”

– Susan B. Anthony

“The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.”

Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress (April 2, 1917). (State of War with Germany).

“we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”

Winston Churchill. Speech in the House of Commons (4 June 1940)

“The Red Army and Navy and the whole Soviet people must fight for every inch of Soviet soil, fight to the last drop of blood for our towns and villages…onward, to victory!”

Josef Stalin – July 1941


  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”

– United Nations Charter, preamble, 26 June 1945

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

– United Nations Charter, Article 1, 26 June 1945

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. “

Charles Darwin

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”

– Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence 1776

“You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

Winston Churchill. Speech in the House of Commons, after taking office as Prime Minister (13 May 1940)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. “

– Abraham Lincoln 1863 Gettysburg Address

” – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

– Abraham Lincoln 1863, Gettysburg Address

Cogito ergo sum” ( I think, therefore I am)”

Rene Descartes – part IV of Discourse on the Method

“I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”

– Nelson Mandela. Speech on the day of his release, Cape Town (11 February 1990)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

– Abraham Lincoln 1858 – House Divided Speech

“The calm and tolerant atmosphere that prevailed during the elections depicts the type of South Africa we can build. It set the tone for the future. We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition.”

– Nelson Mandela

“There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

― Mother Teresa, ‘A Simple Path’

” Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.”

Martin Luther King – 1963

“And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land”

– Martin Luther King – 1968 – “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top Speech

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

– Mahatma Gandhi “Interview to the Press” in Karachi about the execution of Bhagat Singh (26 March 1926);

“I can predict with absolute certainty that within another generation there will be another world war if the nations of the world do not concert the method by which to prevent it.”

– Woodrow Wilson, League of Nations Address (25 September 1919)

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF THE WORLD, UNITE!”

“A spectre is haunting Europe; the spectre of Communism.”

– Karl Marx, F.Engels, Communist Manifesto 1848

“The Soviet people want full-blooded and unconditional democracy.”

– President Mikhail Gorbachev Speech (July 1988)

“Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners. “

Lenin, State and Revolution, 1917

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.”

– Wilfred Owen, from Anthem for Doomed Youth

“In war-time the word patriotism means suppression of truth”.

Siegfried Sassoon, in Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it…”

– George Bernard Shaw, ‘The World; (15 November 1893)

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.”

– George Orwell, 1984

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.”

George Orwell, 1984

“Repeal the Missouri Compromise — repeal all compromises — repeal the Declaration of Independence — repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man’s heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.”

– Abraham Lincoln 1854

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Abraham Lincoln, 1865 Second Inaugural Address

“I am for freedom of religion, & against all manoeuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

Thomas Jefferson

“I have sworn upon the altar of God Eternal, hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man”, and “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

– Thomas Jefferson

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

“I am an optimist and I believe that together we shall be able now to make the right historical choice so as not to miss the great chance at the turn of centuries and millenia and make the current extremely difficult transition to a peaceful world order. “

– President Mikhail Gorbachev Nobel Address 1991

“Why not?”

President Mikhail Gorbachev – When asked if he thought the Berlin Wall should be dismantled.

“Private travel into foreign countries can be requested without conditions […]. Permission will be granted instantly. Permanent relocations can be done through all border checkpoints between the GDR into the FRG or Berlin (West).”

— Günter Schabowski, November 9th, 1989 East Germany

“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.”

– J. Robert Oppenheimer (American theoretical Physicist nicknamed the ‘Father of the Atomic Bomb’1904-1967)

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by eleven o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you that no such understanding has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

Neville Chamberlain – 3rd September 1939

“At all times, day by day, we have to continue fighting for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom from want — for these are things that must be gained in peace as well as in war.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (15 April 1943)

“I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita….”Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”

Robert Oppenheimer on The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965)

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Barack Obama February 2008

“A tyrst with destiny – A the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awaken to life and Freedom” –

Jawaharlal Nehru, August 14th 1947.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why?” I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

“I had given up my seat before, but this day, I was especially tired. Tired from my work as a seamstress, and tired from the ache in my heart.”

Rosa Parks

“To be liberated, woman must feel free to be herself, not in rivalry to man but in the context of her own capacity and her personality.”

Indira Gandhi “True Liberation Of Women”, speech (March 26, 1980)

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)


“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Neil Armstrong (on landing on the moon, July 1969)

“So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

– Malala Yousafzai. UN Speech, June 2013.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Quotes that changed the world”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net 3 Feb. 2014

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