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state or fact of being responsible

Responsibility is the state of being "responsible", or answerable for an act performed or for its consequences, especially morally, legally, or politically.


  • Without laughter life on our planet would be intolerable. So important is laughter to us that humanity highly rewards members of one of the most unusual professions on earth, those who make a living by inducing laughter in others. This is very strange if you stop to think of it: that otherwise sane and responsible citizens should devote their professional energies to causing others to make sharp, explosive barking-like exhalations.
  • Goliath: You believe I am not responsible. Yet I remain your prisoner?
Halcyon Reynard: Who said you're not responsible? It doesn't matter that you were tricked, you know now that your actions inflicted grievous damage. Do you take responsibility for them or not? Well, what are you going to do?
  • Goliath: No more excuses. I accept full responsibility for my actions. I was wrong.
Halcyon Reynard: I'm glad you are 'gargoyle' enough to admit it.
Goliath: It was not easy.
Halcyon Reynard: Integrity is never easy. It's a daily struggle, a costly struggle. If you only knew what it cost me: My Anastasia. My Janine.
Goliath: My Angel of the Night.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 4 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.
  • With great power there must also come — great responsibility!
    • Amazing Fantasy #15, August 1962 (the first Spider-Man written by Stan Lee
    • Variant: "With great power comes great responsibility."
      • Used in Isaac Asimov's novella "The Bicentennial Man" (1976) through George Martin quote : "With great power goes great responsibility, and if the robots have Three Laws to protect men, is it too much to ask that men have a law or two to protect robots?" (Chapter 11)
      • "Uncle" Ben Parker, in Spider-Man (2002).
      • The saying, however, long pre-dates these sources, appearing in print in a number of variants since at least 1817 (Thomas C. Hansard, ed (1817). Parliamentary Debates. p. 1227. Retrieved on October 10, 2013. "He should, however, beg leave to remind the conductors of the press of their duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government —"that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility." ).
  • 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.'
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Obra de comun, obra de ningun.
Frodo: I will take it! [All continue to argue] I will take it! [All fall silent] I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though... I do not know the way.
Gandalf: I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, for as long as it is yours to bear.
Aragorn: If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword...
Legolas: And you have my bow.
Gimli: And my axe.
Boromir: You carry the fate of us all, little one. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done.

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).
  • 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.

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