Pericles - In Defense of Democracy
Pericles, in 431 B.C., gave the following speech to the citizens of Athens, Greece.
IN DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY
Our government is not copied from those of our neighbors. We are an example to them, rather than they to us. Our Constitution is named a democracy, because it is in the hands, not of the few, but of the many. Our laws secure equal justice in all; in our private disputes, and in our public opinion, which is welcomed, and honors every talent in every branch of achievement, on grounds of excellence alone. We give free play to all in our public life, and we carry the same spirit into our daily relationships with one another.
We are lovers of beauty without extravagance, and lovers of wisdom without weakness. Wealth, to us, is not mere material for vain glory, but an opportunity for achievement. And poverty, we think is no disgrace to acknowledge, thatthe real denegration is to make no effort to overcome.
Our citizens attend both public and private duties, and do not allow absorbtion in their own various affairs, to interfere with their knowledge of the cities. We differ from other states regarding the man who holds himself aloof from public life. He is regarded as quiet, but we regard him as useless. And, we decide, debate, and carefully in person, all matters of policy, holding not that words and deeds go ill together, but the acts are doomed to failure when undiscussed.
We are noted for being adventuruous, in action, and reflective beforehand. The bravest are those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet go out and meet it. In a word, I claim that our city is an education to Greece, and her members yield to none.
--- Pericles; to the Athenians (431 BC)
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