The idea of freedom is one of the most universally applicable and accepted concepts throughout the world. Since the Age of Enlightenment, countless countries overthrew monarchies, tyrannical rulers, and dictators in order to form a perfect union.
The most well-known of these countries is the United States. This country was able to fight its way out of the rule of the British. It has also become of the biggest superpowers in the world in just a few hundred years. Thus, the spirit of independence and the value of freedom in this country cannot be overstated.
Of course, at least in America, the feeling of unity, freedom, and the never-ending pursuit of happiness tends to wax and wane. Many people struggle to feel that same unifying bond of independence, or the critical importance of freedom in the lives of all people. It simply depends upon who you ask and what they believe.
Politics aside, people in various countries have become more self-focused on their affairs. These people have taken for granted those who fought, lived, and died to make the world we call home.
To help us all remember, we’ve taken five of our favorite freedom quotes. Moreover, we've broken down how each brings about a spirit of freedom and community that is so desperately needed in the United States and beyond. These freedom quotes come from a variety of sources to give us a well-rounded perspective on what independence was, is, and can be.
So if you want to remind yourself the importance of freedom, we hope that this article can help you remember what’s so great about it in the first place.
How We’ve Chosen Our Quotes
When talking about freedom and independence, it is hard to ignore the might of the United States and its influence on our perceptions of the words “freedom” and “independence.” In many ways, the two have become synonymous.
At the same time, we wanted to take a broader scope on the concept of freedom and independence. Further, we'd like to focus on what independence means for the individual rather than simply the nation.
We looked to the following sources for quotes on freedom. We've worked hard to find a unique and eclectic group of voices that would give us the best overall presentation of what freedom means. We looked into:
Not all these figures hail from America. Some people from around the world have been able to distill the importance of freedom, liberty, and independence from a variety of cultural and spiritual backgrounds.
If you find a quote from one of these authors that is especially poignant, we strongly encourage you to take the time to look more into that author. Each of these five voices represents a strong well of wisdom that you can use long after regaining an independent spirit.
Top 5 Best Freedom Quotes
That all being said, let’s look at the following five freedom quotes and break down what makes each so crucial for living a free life:
“Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.” — Hubert H. Humphrey
This first quote from a Vice-President of the United States highlights what’s difficult about freedom.
Everyone is different. Everyone comes into conversations with a completely different perspective on what freedom encompasses. In a society, we know that not everyone is going to be able to do as they please. What some people considered their as free right might be infringing on the freedoms that others have.
So where do we curtail the freedoms of others to ensure tranquility for the rest of us? The answer, at least in the United States' political system, rests in the debate.
By talking with fellow citizens, voicing our concerns, and highlighting places where we disagree with one another, we can get closer and closer to a society that serves its people with the greatest level of equality and freedom.
However, that freedom won't happen if we don’t step forward and voice our concerns. Freedom is work, and Humphrey recognized that. We’d be smart to recognize it as well.
“Freedom is not the right to live as we please, but the right to find how we ought to live in order to fulfill our potential.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
This second quote comes from a popular and controversial figure.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, notable for his relation to Henry David Thoreau and his focus on radical individualism, had a different but valuable perspective on freedom. His thoughts highlight how we may all perceive the concept differently.
While we may think of freedom as liberty from governmental oversight, Emerson has a different view. He seems to argue that freedom has more to do with inner freedom than one that’s external.
Being given the right to choose our path, even when it is different or disagreeable with others, is more important than a law in place stating you can say whatever you want.
Freedom is more complex than a simple existence of government. If you look into the lives both of Emerson and Thoreau, you may find that they held great disdain for even the most basic of social obligations.
Truly, a modern perspective may make it difficult to get into Emerson’s mindset. However, we still think it’s worth taking some time to understand what made Emerson’s perceptions of freedom so transcendental.
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” - Aung San Suu Kyi
Moving away from America for a moment, this quote highlights the underlying assumptions about what freedom is and is not, focuses more on what freedom is on a spiritual level. This isn’t especially surprising given the author—as Aung San Suu Kyi is a leader of democracy and Peace Prize laureate from Burma.
Freedom, at least on a mental level, only exists when the people within it recognize their agency. By recognizing that you have freedom, you can then take steps to utilize it to the best of your ability. However, by utilizing fear, other individuals or governmental systems can shut down freedom simply based on the fact that individuals don’t feel as if you have it.
By recognizing that fear can be anathema to freedom, Aung San Suu Kyi and ourselves can recognize that freedom comes specifically from freedom from fear. Without that freedom from fear, the quotes by many other distinguished scholars on this list may not have ever come to pass in the first place.
Freedom, like many other things in life, is self-effacing. Aung San Suu Kyi teaches us that we need to do is recognize that we have it.
“Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” - Kahlil Gibran
As a Lebanese-born writer who later gained American citizenship, Kahlil Gibran knew was it was like to live on either end of freedom. He was able to recognize the importance of freedom, as well as its fundamental requirement for the betterment of human life.
Gibran, as many others would argue, knew that liberty was one of the fundamental human needs. Much like with food, water, or shelter, humans need to have that liberty to function property and recognize their autonomy in the world.
Without that freedom, there is little left to live for—and in many ways, that sort of life can resemble a “body without spirit” as Kahlil Gibran is able to put it. Far more than social justice or moral opportunity, there is a clear need for freedom and liberty in all of our lives. It is an inalienable human right, for which many have fought and have died for.
And for Gibran, who knew life without that freedom, heeding his words is all the more important.
“I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” - Patrick Henry
Our final quote brings us back to America and focuses on one of the most popular figures from the American Revolution.
Patrick Henry has lived on in infamy due to this quote, as well as the many actions he took in his lifetime to ensure the birth of the United States from the hands of Great Britain. Like many of his fellow patriots, Patrick Henry’s radical ideas of freedom and the fundamental need for it certainly led to many arguments amongst his fellow peers.
However, while this quote is one that most Americans know almost intrinsically, it’s important to look at what Patrick Henry is saying here. Much like with Kahlil Gibran, Patrick Henry recognizes that freedom is more than a boost quality of life, but rather, that fundamental quality we all need to survive.
If a life without liberty is a life without a spirit, then that life is not worth living, which is why, at least to Patrick Henry, death is a preferable alternative to a life without that freedom. He recognizes what the British tyranny has done to America and its people, and knows that freedom from the British is the only way forward. There are no other options.
These sorts of life and death stakes are those that we can only dream of in our lifetime—as there are no longer life or death struggles for freedom in the modern world. While regimes and dictators are still very much a part of the world, many of those in first world countries struggle to recognize the heavy price paid for a comfortable life.
Freedom Should Never be Taken For Granted
The next time you find yourself placated by the comforts and luxuries of the United States or other free countries, remember the words of Patrick Henry and the other four authors on our list. Each lived in a time where the struggle for freedom in their part of the world was very much real, and not something they needed to imagine.
Therefore, their words in freedom and its value are incredibly important to recognize. They each—in their own way and with their own words—recognize the spirit of independence and did whatever they could in their lifetimes to keep that spirit alive. And in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, those efforts are still ongoing.
At the end of the day, we have to recognize that the freedom we have is freedom worth fighting to protect.