Weekend Words: Action

John Clevely the Elder, “Action off Cape François, 21 October 1757” (nd), oil on canvas, 33 x 49 cm (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London) (image via Web Gallery of Art)

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court took the country another step further to the right with its affirmation of Michigan’s state constitutional amendment banning race-based affirmative action at its public universities, a move eerily foretold by one of our more progressive ex-presidents:

“Well, as you know, there are many things in life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people can’t. But I don’t believe that the Federal Government should take action to try to make these opportunities exactly equal, particularly when there is a moral factor involved.”

—Jimmy Carter

“Action without a name, a who attached to it, is meaningless.”

—Hannah Arendt

“Think like a man of action, and act like a man of thought.”

—Henri Bergson

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

—Winston Churchill

“The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.”

—T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”

“Never mistake motion for action.”

—Ernest Hemingway

“We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”


“It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”

—Charlotte Bronte

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

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