You walk outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays, you breathe and you risk your life. You don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.

First you win. Then you do good.

I can only hope that I have loved the people closest to me more than I have harmed them. This is something, however, that I don’t think anyone can know for sure.

I don’t think we can say should about things that happen in war. It just happens and we should live with it.

In the light of the morning, he [Robin Li] realized that as a Chinese citizen, he had no choice, and from that point he implemented the government’s request without complaint. “It’s not an issue to me,” he says. “It’s just Chinese law. I’m not in politics. I’m not in a position to judge what’s right and wrong.

“Forgive me, I only wanted t’say that the purity of science often hurts many people, just like pure natural phenomena do. Volcanic eruptions bury whole towns, floods wash bridges away, earthquakes knock buildings flat –“

To what extent is any given man morally responsible for any given act? We do not know.

The second time my grandmother caught me vomiting, she didn’t wait in the hall; she sat on my bed paging through the copy of The Rise of Silas Lapham that she’d found on my nightstand. Her voice was raspy with morning as she said, “Close the door.” When I had, she said, “That was very foolish of me before, wasn’t it? Thinking you were trying to lose weight.”

I stood by the bureau and said nothing.

“We’ll go to Chicago, and we’ll have it taken case of. Next week, likely. I need to make a few calls. You can do as you see fit, but I’d advise against saying anything to your parents. I just can’t imagine what purpose it would serve.”

I felt an impulse then to express incomprehension, except that I did comprehend. At night, when I listened to “Lonesome Town,” I knew. She was right.

“Isn’t it – ” I hesitated. “Isn’t it illegal?”

“Certainly, and it happens all the time. You can’t legislate human nature.”

“You don’t think that I should have it?”

Quietly, she said, “I think it would kill you. If the circimstances were different, I would say, ‘Go live at a girls’ home in Minnesota, go to California.’ But you don’t have the strength. You’ll be strong again, but you’re not strong now.”

As she spoke, I could feel my lips curling out, the tears welling in my eyes, I whispered, “I’m sorry for disappointing you.”

“Come sit by me,” she said, and when I did, she rubbed my back, the palm of her hand sweeping over the white cotton of my nightgown. After a moment, she said, “We have to make mistakes. It’s how we learn compassion for others.” She paused. “You don’t need to tell me whose it is. That doesn’t matter.”

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized.

Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls;
Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.
Our strong arms be our conscience, sword our law.

We are hesitant to impose upon ourselves a common moral code because we want our own exemptions. This modern allergy to judgments and standards, of which attitudes toward the Clinton scandals are but a manifestation, is deeply problematic, for a defining mark of a good republic is precisely the willingness to make judgments about things that matter.

In America, we do not defer to kings, cardinals, or aristocrats; we rely instead on the people’s capacity to make reasonable judgments based on moral principles.

[In a later iteration, Bennett concluded the thought with this sentence.] Our form of government requires of us not moral perfection but modest virtues and adherence to some standards.

The fact that compared to the inhabitants of Africa and Russia, we still live well cannot ease the pain of feeling we no longer live nobly

As it happens, despite what much of the public might think, they all don’t do it. Most presidents do not commit illegal acts, or lie under oath, or thimb our noses at the law. Most presidents do not chronically decieve, delay, obfuscate, and stonewall federal investigators. This does not mean they are perfect or near perfect; it means merely that most live up to their oath to execute faithfully the laws of the land, and behave in at least a reasonably responsible way. The same is true of most figures in the nation’s capital. Washington, D.C., is not, in fact, a den of thieves, or a house of knaves…

…when we found out President Nixon’s part in an illegal cover-up, we (the courts, Congress, the media, and the public) acted in the national interest – and so, in the end, did he by resigning…In a self-governing and law-abiding nation, we must never allow ourselves to be lulled into passive disgust or indifference, the civic equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. We must never lose our sense, when appropriate, of outrage.

I was trembling, because I’d got to decide forever betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then I says to myself:

‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ – and tore it up.

Bech had not always been an evil man. He had dedicated himself early to what appeared plainly a good cause, art. It was amusing and helpful to others, he imagined as he emerged from the Army, to turn contiguous bits of world into words, words which when properly arranged and typeset possessed a gleam that in worldless reality was lost beneath the daily accretions of habit, worry, and boredom. What harm could there be in art? What enemies could there be?