No period of history has ever been great or ever can be that does not act on some sort of high, idealistic motives, and idealism in our time has been shoved aside, and we are paying the penalty for it.
—Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) English Mathematician, Philosopher
The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.
—Charles F. Kettering (1876–1958) American Inventor, Entrepreneur, Businessperson
All men are prepared to accomplish the incredible if their ideals are threatened.
—Hermann Hesse (1877–1962) German-born Swiss Novelist, Poet
To live and let live, without clamor for distinction or recognition; to wait on divine Love; to write truth first on the tablet of one’s own heart—this is the sanity and perfection of living, and my human ideal.
—Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) American Christian Science Religious Leader, Humanitarian, Writer
Man can never come up to his ideal standard.—It is the nature of the immortal spirit to raise that standard higher and higher as it goes from strength to strength, still upward and onward.—The wisest and greatest men are ever the most modest.
—Margaret Fuller (1810–50) American Feminist, Writer, Revolutionary
Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality the cost becomes prohibitive.
—William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925–2008) American TV Personality, Author
An optimist is a person who sees only the lights in the picture, whereas a pessimist sees only the shadows. An idealist, however, is one who sees the light and the shadows, but in addition sees something else: the possibility of changing the picture, of making the lights prevail over the shadows.
—Felix Adler (1851–1933) German-Born American Philosopher
Most of us serve our ideals by fits and starts. The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.
—Cecil B. DeMille (1881–1959) American Film Producer, Director
A large portion of human beings live not so much in themselves as in what they desire to be.—They create an ideal character the perfections of which compensate in some degree for imperfections of their own.
—Edwin Percy Whipple (1819–86) American Literary Critic
From my experience, not one in twenty marries the first love; we build statues of snow, and weep to see them melt.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small, isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.
—Victor Hugo (1802–85) French Novelist
Our salvation is in striving to achieve what we know we’ll never achieve.
—Ryszard Kapuscinski (1932–2007) Polish Journalist
Ideality is only the avant-courier of the mind, and where that, in a healthy and normal state goes, I hold it to be a prophecy that realization can follow.
—Horace Mann (1796–1859) American Educator, Politician, Educationalist
An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.
—H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) American Journalist, Literary Critic
Reality does not conform to the ideal, but confirms it.
—Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) French Novelist, Playwright, Short Story Writer
I promise to keep on living as though I expected to live forever. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.
—Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) American Military Leader
Words without actions are the assassins of idealism.
—Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) 31st American President
Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.
—John Galsworthy (1867–1933) English Novelist, Playwright
Some day the soft Ideal that we wooed confronts us fiercely, foe-beset, pursued, and cries reproachful: “Was it then my praise, and not myself was loved? Prove now thy truth; I claim of thee the promise of thy youth.”
—James Russell Lowell (1819–91) American Poet, Critic
Cherish your visions. Cherish your ideals. Cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.
—James Allen (1864–1912) British Philosophical Writer
If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.
—Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) American Civil Rights Leader
Nearly all the Escapists in the long past have managed their own budget and their social relations so unsuccessfully that I wouldn’t want them for my landlords, or my bankers, or my neighbors. They were valuable, like powerful stimulants, only when they were left out of the social and industrial routine.
—Willa Cather (1873–1947) American Novelist, Writer
When they come downstairs from their Ivory Towers, idealists are very apt to walk straight into the gutter.
—Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) American-British Essayist, Bibliophile
Man must cast out of himself everything which separates him from God. He must will to live the divine life, and he must rise above all moral temptations; he must forsake every course of action that is not in accord with his highest ideals.
—Wallace Wattles (1860–1911) American New Thought Author
Don’t part company with your ideals. They are anchors in a storm.
—Arnold Glasow (1905–98) American Businessman
What we need most, is not so much to realize the ideal as to idealize the real.
—Frederic Henry Hedge
If you are going to build something in the air it is always better to build castles than houses of cards.
—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–99) German Philosopher, Physicist
Our ideals, like the gods of old, are constantly demanding human sacrifices.
—George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) Irish Playwright
It’s time for greatness—not for greed. It’s a time for idealism—not ideology. It is a time not just for compassionate words, but compassionate action.
—Marian Wright Edelman (b.1939) American Civil Regrets Advocate, Humanitarian, Lawyer
Idealism springs from deep feelings, but feelings are nothing without the formulated idea that keeps them whole.
—Jacques Barzun (b.1907) French-born American Historian, Philosophers