- RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
- In a society such as ours, it is almost impossible for a person to be responsible. A simple example: a dam has been built somewhere, and it bursts. Who is responsible for that? Geologists worked out. They examined the terrain. Engineers drew up the construction plans. Workmen constructed it. And the politicians decided that the dam had to be in that spot. Who is responsible? No one. There is never anyone responsible. Anywhere. In the whole of our technological society the work is so fragmented and broken up into small pieces that no one is responsible. But no one is free either. Everyone has his own, specific task. And that's all he has to do.
Just consider, for example, that atrocious excuse—it was one of the most horrible things I have ever heard. The director of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was asked at the Nuremburg trials trials, “But didn’t you find it horrible? All those corpses?” He replied, “What could I do? I couldn’t process all those corpses. The capacity of the ovens was too small. It caused me many problems. I had no time to think about these people. I was too busy with the technical problem of my ovens.” That is the classic example of an irresponsible person. He carries out his technical task and isn't interested in anything else.
- Jacques Ellul, The Betrayal by Technology (1993)
- Responsibility is a rare thing in any case: a bastard child, often denied.
- Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.
- Viktor Frankl, (1956) Man's Search for Meaning, p. 209-210.
- The ruling powers tell us poor lower-class folks that we have an obligation, a social responsibility to society, to abide by the law, but they don't have any social responsibility to us to help us meet our needs. It's pure bourgeoisie class-based morality, a morality that serves the ruling class, not the masses of the oppressed.
- Kevin Rashid Johnson, Defying the Tomb (2010)
- Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
- Gospel of Luke, 12:48, English Standard Version.
For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us—recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state—our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:
First, were we truly men of courage—with the courage to stand up to one's enemies—and the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's associates—the courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?
Secondly, were we truly men of judgment—with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past—of our mistakes as well as the mistakes of others—with enough wisdom to know what we did not know and enough candor to admit it.
Third, were we truly men of integrity—men who never ran out on either the principles in which we believed or the men who believed in us—men whom neither financial gain nor political ambition could ever divert from the fulfillment of our sacred trust?
Finally, were we truly men of dedication—with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and comprised of no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest?
Courage—judgment—integrity—dedication—these are the historic qualities ... which, with God's help ... will characterize our Government's conduct in the four stormy years that lie ahead.
- John F. Kennedy, address to the Massachusetts legislature (January 9, 1961); Congressional Record (January 10, 1961), vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169.
- Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually.
- Dalai Lama, Nobel lecture (December 11, 1989)
- The possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.
- William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne Hansard, Thomas Curson. "Habeus Corpus Suspension Bill." The Parliamentary Debates From The Year 1803 To The Present Time. Vol. 36. London: T.C. Hansard, 1817. 1127. Print. Parliamentary Debates.
- Misattributed to Voltaire: Voltaire. Jean, Adrien. Beuchot, Quentin and Miger, Pierre, Auguste. Œuvres de Voltaire, Volume 48. Lefèvre, 1832..
- The sentiment is also found in Luke 12:48: "from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (NIV).
- Upon the standard to which the wise and honest will now repair it is written: "You have lived the easy way; henceforth, you will live the hard way…. You came into a great heritage made by the insight and the sweat and the blood of inspired and devoted and courageous men; thoughtlessly and in utmost self-indulgence you have all but squandered this inheritance. Now only by the heroic virtues which made this inheritance can you restore it again…. You took the good things for granted. Now you must earn them again…. For every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill. For every hope that you entertain, you have a task that you must perform. For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer".
- Walter Lippmann, speech to the Harvard Class of 1910 at their thirtieth reunion (June 18, 1940); Walter Lippmann papers, Yale University Library. President Jimmy Carter quoted from the latter part of this passage, with slight variations, in his State of the Union address to Congress (January 23, 1980). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1980–81, book 1, p. 200.
- 'Am I responsible or are you', a senior official asked his pilot, dubiously beginning a flight to Baghdad, 'for seeing that this machine is not overloaded?' 'That will have to be decided at the inquest.'
- James (Jan) Morris, Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat (1978), p. 357.
- One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license.
- There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.
- P. J. O'Rourke, The Liberty Manifesto (1993)
- We have been telling [young people] for decades to demand what they are owed by society. We have been implying that the important meanings of their lives will be given to them because of such demands, when we should have been doing the opposite: letting them know that the meaning that sustains life in all its tragedy and disappointment is to be found in shouldering a noble burden.
- When doing a job — any job — one must feel that he owns it, and act as though he will remain in that job forever. He must look after his work just as conscientiously, as though it were his own business and his own money. If he feels he is only a temporary custodian, or that the job is just a stepping stone to a higher position, his actions will not take into account the long-term interests of the organization. His lack of commitment to the present job will be perceived by those who work for him, and they, likewise, will tend not to care. Too many spend their entire working lives looking for the next job. When one feels he owns his present job and acts that way, he need have no concern about his next job.
- Hyman G. Rickover, as quoted in The Rickover Effect (1992), by Theodore Rockwell
- Responsibility is a unique concept... You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you... If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.
- Hyman G. Rickover, as quoted in The Rickover Effect (1992), by Theodore Rockwell
- Physical misery is great everywhere out here [Africa]. Are we justified in shutting our eyes and ignoring it because our European newspapers tell us nothing about it? We civilised people have been spoilt. If any one of us is ill the doctor comes at once. Is an operation necessary, the door of some hospital or other opens to us immediately. But let every one reflect on the meaning of the fact that out here millions and millions live without help or hope of it. Every day thousands and thousands endure the most terrible sufferings, though medical science could avert them. Every day there prevails in many and many a far-off hut a despair which we could banish. Will each of my readers think what the last ten years of his family history would have been if they had been passed without medical or surgical help of any sort? It is time that we should wake from slumber and face our responsibilities!
- Albert Schweitzer, On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, trans. C. T. Campion (1948, reprinted 1976), p. 115.
- Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.
- I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived.
- In Donald's mind, even acknowledging an inevitable threat would indicate weakness. Taking responsibility would open him up to blame. Being a hero- being good- is impossible for him.
- Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020), p. 210
- Obra de comun, obra de ningun.
- Everyone's business is no one's business.
- "Matters that are of general concern, but are the responsibility of nobody in particular, tend to get neglected because everybody thinks that somebody else should deal with them."
- Mawr, E.B. (1885). Analogous Proverbs in Ten Languages. p. 116.
- Source for meaning: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 11 June 2013.
- In dreams begin responsibilities.
Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) edit
- A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
- Albert Einstein, "The World as I See It", Ideas and Opinions, trans. Sonja Bargmann, p. 8 (1954).
- If I knew something useful to me and harmful to my family, I should put it out of my mind. If I knew something useful to my family and not to my country, I should try to forget it. If I knew something useful to my country and harmful to Europe, or useful to Europe and harmful to the human race, I should consider it a crime.
- Montesquieu. Robert John Loy, Montesquieu, chapter 3, p. 122 (1968). Before giving this translation, Loy says, "Montesquieu was so fond of the passage that he composed it in several forms; it stands as his philosophical emblem". For the original French, see Montesquieu, Oeuvres Completes, p. 981 (1949).
- There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, speech accepting renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 27, 1936. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936, p. 235 (1938).
- In proportion to power is responsibility.
- God has lent us the earth for our life; it is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are to come after us, and whose names are already written in the book of creation, as to us; and we have no right, by anything that we do or neglect, to involve them in unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits which it was in our power to bequeath.
- John Ruskin, "The Lamp of Memory", The Seven Lamps of Architecture, chapter 6, section 9, p. 248 (1907).
- The Buck Stops Here
- Harry S. Truman, motto on his White House desk. Alfred Steinberg, Harry S. Truman (1963), p. 185.
- For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.
- John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, "A Modell of Christian Charity", discourse written aboard the Arbella during the voyage to Massachusetts, 1630. Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, p. 19 (1867). Robert C. Winthrop was a representative from Massachusetts, 1840–1850, and was Speaker of the House 1847–1849; he was a senator from Massachusetts 1850–1851. Walter F. Mondale referred to the "city on a hill" in a presidential campaign speech in Cleveland, Ohio, October 25, 1984; The Washington Post account notes that this quotation from Winthrop is a favorite of President Reagan's. October 26, 1984, p. 1. President-elect John F. Kennedy said, in an address to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961, "During the last 60 days I have been engaged in the task of constructing an administration…. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella [sic] 331 years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a government on a new and perilous frontier. 'We must always consider,' he said, 'that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.' Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, State, and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities". Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169. For another portion of this speech, see No. 1494.