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Defense of freedom

The defense of freedom is a phrase that reflects the concept that freedom is a valuable and fragile thing, capable of being taken away from free people absent vigilance against both internal and external threats to that freedom.


  • A nation which makes the final sacrifice for life and freedom does not get beaten.
    • Kemal Atatürk, reported in M. M. Mousharrafa, Ataturk (1944), p. 130.
  • In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it.
    • John F. Kennedy, inaugural address, January 20, 1961. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 2–3. This is one of seven inscriptions carved on the walls at the gravesite of John F. Kennedy, Arlington National Cemetery.
  • We in this country, in this generation, are—by destiny rather than choice—the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
    • John F. Kennedy, remarks prepared for delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 894. This speech was never delivered. President Kennedy was on his way to the Trade Mart when he was assassinated. The quotations are from the Bible, Luke 2:14 and Psalms 127:1, respectively.
  • No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.
    • Douglas MacArthur, title of speech to the people of Japan, May 3, 1948, upon the first anniversary of the Japanese constitution. MacArthur, A Soldier Speaks (1965), p. 194. Francis T. Miller, General Douglas MacArthur, Fighter for Freedom (1942), p. 1, wrote, "[MacArthur] has said many times to friends: 'The man who will not defend his freedom does not deserve to be free!'"
  • Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.
    • Thomas Paine, "The Crisis," no. 4, September 11, 1777. Moncure D. Conway, ed., The Writings of Thomas Paine (1894), vol. 1, p. 229.
  • We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.
    • Thomas Paine, "The Crisis," no. 4, September 11, 1777, final paragraph. Moncure D. Conway, ed., The Writings of Thomas Paine (1902, reprinted 1969), vol. 1, p. 229, vol. 1, p. 232.
  • The great German poet, Goethe, who also lived through a crisis of freedom, said to his generation: "What you have inherited from your fathers, earn over again for yourselves or it will not be yours." We inherited freedom. We seem unaware that freedom has to be remade and re-earned in each generation of man.
    • Adlai Stevenson, "Politics and Morality," Saturday Review (February 7, 1959), p. 12; quoting, in part, Goethe's Faust, act I, scene i, "Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast, / Erwirb es, um es zu besitzen." In Randall Jarrell's translation, "That which you inherit from your fathers / You must earn in order to possess." Goethe's Faust (republished 1976), p. 35.