Our Liberty Is Not the Right To Do As We Please, But the Opportunity To Please To Do What Is Right

Peter Marshall? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once heard an intriguing remark about action and autonomy. It was roughly the following:

May freedom be seen, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.

These words were attributed to a U.S. religious figure, but I do not recall the details. Would you please help me to find the correct statement and ascription?

Quote Investigator: QI believes that this comment can be traced back to remarks made during 1947 by Reverend Peter Marshall who was the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He clearly believed that this theme was vital, and he returned to it at least three times. The first statement was spoken during a prayer delivered on March 19, 1947. Marshall employed the keyword “liberty” in the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It cost too much to be hoarded. Make us to see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right.

Marshall voiced the second statement during a prayer on April 25, 1947. He used the keyword “freedom” instead of “liberty”: 2

Teach us what freedom is. May we all learn the lesson that it is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right.

Marshall delivered the third statement during a prayer on July 3, 1947. He again used the keyword “freedom”: 3

May they remember how bitterly our freedom was won, the down payment that was made for it, the installments that have been made since this Republic was born, and the price that must yet be paid for our liberty.

May freedom be seen, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to please to do what is right.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Our Liberty Is Not the Right To Do As We Please, But the Opportunity To Please To Do What Is Right

Notes:

  1. 1949, Prayers Offered by the Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall, D.D.: At the Opening of the Daily Sessions of the Senate of the United States During the Eightieth and Eighty-first Congress 1947-1949, Prayer Date: March 19, 1947, Quote Page 15, United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1949, Prayers Offered by the Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall, D.D.: At the Opening of the Daily Sessions of the Senate of the United States During the Eightieth and Eighty-first Congress 1947-1949, Prayer Date: April 25, 1947, Quote Page 22, United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1949, Prayers Offered by the Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall, D.D.: At the Opening of the Daily Sessions of the Senate of the United States During the Eightieth and Eighty-first Congress 1947-1949, Prayer Date: July 3, 1947, Quote Page 35 and 36, United States Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. (Google Books Full View) link

A Different World Cannot Be Built By Indifferent People

Peter Marshall? E. W. Palmer? Mary Morain? Stanley Sykes? Horace Mann? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Would you please explore the provenance of the following inspirational quotation?

A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.

These words are often attributed to someone named Peter Marshall, but I have seen other individuals credited.

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in January 1944 in the U.S. military newspaper “The Stars and Stripes”. Multiple editions of this periodical were published, and the saying was included in the London and Northern Ireland editions: 1 2

GI Philosophy. A different world can never be built with indifferent people.

GI was a nickname for soldiers in the U.S. Army. No specific name was given for the originator of the adage.

The expression has been connected to Peter Marshall because he held the prominent position of Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, and he popularized the maxim by including it in two prayers in 1947 and 1948. Detailed citations are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Different World Cannot Be Built By Indifferent People

Notes:

  1. 1944 January 11, The Stars and Stripes (London Stars and Stripes), Hash Marks, Quote Page 2, Column 2, London, Middlesex, England. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1944 January 11, The Stars and Stripes (North Ireland Stars and Stripes), Hash Marks, Quote Page 2, Column 2, Belfast, Ulster, Northern Ireland. (NewspaperArchive)