Be the Change You Wish To See in the World

Mohandas Gandhi? Arleen Lorrance? Ernest Troutner? Diane Kennedy Pike? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Often you cannot convince someone via speech alone to constructively alter a behavior, but you can provide a model for emulation by changing your own behavior. Here are three versions of this notion:

  • Be the change you wish to see in the world.
  • Be the change you want to see happen.
  • We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

This saying has been attributed to the famous Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. Yet, I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Gandhi died in 1948, and the earliest close match known to QI appeared many years later in 1974 within a book chapter written by educator Arleen Lorrance. She described her unhappiness while employed at a high school in Brooklyn, New York: 1

For seven years I served my sentence and marked off institutional time; I complained, cried, accepted hopelessness, put down the rest of the faculty for all the things they didn’t do, and devoted all my energies to trying to change others and the system.

Lorrance’s approach changed radically when she achieved a crucial insight about the most effective way to achieve change:

It came in on me loud and clear that I was the only one who could imprison (or release) me, that I was the only one I could do anything about changing. So I let go of my anger and negativism and made a decision to simply be totally loving, open and vulnerable all the time.

Her book chapter was titled “The Love Project”, and Lorrance was the initiator and facilitator of the project. The saying under examination was a core principle. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

One way to start a preventative program is to be the change you want to see happen. That is the essence and substance of the simple and successful endeavor known as THE LOVE PROJECT.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Be the Change You Wish To See in the World


  1. 1974 Copyright, Developing Priorities and a Style: Selected Readings in Education for Teachers and Parents, Editor: Richard Dean Kellough (California State University, Sacramento) Second Edition, Chapter: The Love Project by Arleen Lorrance, Start Page 85, Quote Page 85, Publisher: MSS Information Corporation, New York. (Google Books Preview)