On Power and Pledges

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But the fact that there is evil abroad, that there are those who are bent on wickedness and that their efforts oftentimes prevail, that there are limitations, is no reason for losing faith in the right. The fact that obligations may be disregarded, that pledges may be broken, is no reason for losing faith in honor and integrity. There are those those who argue that if government has sometimes been a means of oppression, that therefore government should be abolished, that if property has sometimes made its possessors selfish and cruel, that therefore property should be abolished. They argue, perhaps unconsciously, that if power has been misused by some, that power therefore should be abolished. The plain fact is that power cannot be abolished, nor can government and property, which are a species of power. Wherever mankind exists, these exist. Our only remedy is to regulate their use and strengthen the disposition to employ them all not for oppression but for service. 

This is but stating the condition into which mankind is born. This is but recognizing those restraints which are created by his very existence. We do not live in an imaginary life. We live in a real life. The individual may occasionally and temporarily secure an advantage for which he has made no return, but this is always impossible for society. Whatever it has, it must create itself. It is an entire delusion to look for a state of freedom, a system of government, an economic organization, under which society can be relieved from the necessity of effort. To be the beneficiaries of civilization is not easy, but hard. Those who promise an existence of ease are not raising mankind up, they are pulling them down. The greater freedom that men acquire, the better government they maintain, the higher economic condition they reach, the more difficult, the more laborious must be their lot. It is not a life of ease that will ever attract men, but the possession of power which comes from achievement, and the possession of character which is the result of sustained effort in well doing…

— Calvin Coolidge, excerpt of address before the Presbyterian General Assembly, May 21, 1922

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