Liberty and freedom are typically considered righteous tenets of human existence — ideals to be cherished and protected. But history tells us that freedom is hard-earned, liberty is often complicated, and both are subject to much philosophical, political, and legal debate. People have long sought to clarify and promote notions of liberty and freedom in society. In 1215, the Magna Carta declared the English sovereign to be subject to the rule of law, outlining certain liberties held by “free men.” Centuries later, in 1789, France created its Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the United States penned its Bill of Rights.
These and other such declarations inspired the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international document created in 1948. Among its 30 articles are many noble concepts such as “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and have the “right to life, liberty and security of person.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, remains a yardstick, a legally nonbinding blueprint for human rights. It is a target to strive for; something for the world to work toward. The people who drafted the Declaration — Eleanor Roosevelt among them — also recognized that freedom came as much from within as from without, and that personal and philosophical notions of liberty were just as important as the rule of law. The following quotes all attest to the principles of freedom and liberty — recognizing that neither can be taken for granted.
There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.
— Alexander Hamilton
Freedom lies in being bold.
— Robert Frost
It does not take a majority to prevail… but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.
— Samuel Adams
Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.
— George Washington
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.
― Abraham Lincoln
Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.
— Kahlil Gibran
For everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. Restriction is justified only in so far as it may be needed for the security of existence.
— Albert Einstein
All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope.
— Winston Churchill
I’d like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free.
— Rosa Parks
Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit of human dignity.
— Herbert Hoover
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
— John F. Kennedy
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
— Nelson Mandela
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
— Pope John Paul II
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.
— Ronald Regan
What light is to the eyes — what air is to the lungs — what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man.
— Robert G. Ingersoll, American lawyer and writer
The function of freedom is to free someone else.
— Toni Morrison