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Walter Lippmann
1869 - 1974

Political commentator, esteemed columnist for the New York Herald Tribune and the Washington Post

Books by Walter Lippmann
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A Preface to Morals (1982)
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Public Opinion (1997)
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Men... are only precariously civilized, and within us there is the propensity, persistent as the force of gravity, to revert under stress and strain, under neglect or temptation, to our first natures.

1955 - from The Public Philosophy
The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.

This is one of the paradoxes of the democratic movement - that it loves a crowd and fears the individuals who compose it - that the religion of humanity should have no faith in human beings.

Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much.

Very few established institutions, governments and constitutions ... are ever destroyed by their enemies until they have been corrupted and weakened by their friends.

The lesson of the tremendous days thorough which we are passing is that men cannot live upon the achievements of their forefathers, but must themselves renew them.... We cannot escape ... the elementary facts of life - that for a people there is nothing for nothing, that what they have they must themselves make, that what they cherish they must themselves achieve, what they wish to keep they must themselves defend.

A useful definition of liberty is obtained only by seeking the principle of liberty in the main business of human life, that is to say, in the process by which men educate their responses and learn to control their environment.

A free mind is an understanding mind, a mind that has found its place, judged its power, and made its peace with the natural order of which it is part.

The principles of the good society call for a concern with an order of being - which cannot be proved existentially to the sense organs - where it matters supremely that the human person is inviolable, that reason shall regulate the will, that truth shall prevail over error.

1955 - from The Public Philosphy
Journalists should not be so distant that all they can hear are shouts, nor so close that they become more conspirators than critics.

We must protect the right of our opponents to speak because we must hear what they have to say.

The rule of 51 percent is a convenience... because we do not know any less troublesome method of obtaining a political decision. But it may easily become an absurd tyranny if we regard it worshipfully, as though it were more than a political device. We have lost all of its true meaning when we imagine the opinion of 51 percent is in some high fashion the true opinion of the whole 100 percent.

While the right to talk may be the beginning of freedom, the necessity of listening is what makes that right important.

It is all very well to talk about being the captain of your soul. It is hard, and only a few heroes, saints, and geniuses have been the captains of their souls for any extended period of their lives. Most men, after a little freedom, have preferred authority with the consoling assurances and the economy of effort which it brings.

1929 - from A Preface to Morals
Popular government has not yet been proved to guarantee ... good government.

He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable or dangerous to do so.

1929 - from A Preface to Morals
The search for moral guidance which shall not depend upon external authority has invariably ended in the acknowledgment of some new authority.

The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.

from a column about Franklin D. Roosevelt
The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.