"Being chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee is like being a mosquito in a nudist colony."
John McCain (1936–), US senator and presidential candidate
Source: Quoted in Fortune (March 2003)
"Women have so much power that even hearing the word power frightens them."
Harriet Rubin (1952–), US author
Source: www.tompeters.com (2000)
"Real power is creating stuff."
Geraldine Laybourne (1947–), US founder, and former CEO, and former chairman of Oxygen Media
Source: “The 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business,” Fortune (Patricia Sellers and Cora Daniels, October 1999)
"In the new organisation, power flows from expertise, not position."
Thomas A. Stewart (1948–), US journalist and author
Source: Intellectual Capital (1997)
"Power is the ability to get things done."
Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1943–), US management theorist, academic, and writer
Source: Getting It All Together: Communes Past, Present, Future (1996)
"You carry forever the fingerprint that comes from being under someone's thumb."
Nancy Banks-Smith (1929–), British journalist
Source: Guardian (London) (January 30, 1991)
"The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line; everyone has a small part of himself in both."
Václav Havel (1936–), Czech president and writer
Source: Disturbing the Peace (1990), ch. 5
"I was allowed to ring the bell for five minutes until everyone was in assembly. It was the beginning of power."
Jeffrey, Lord Archer (1940–), British novelist and politician
Referring to his experience at school.
Source: Quoted in Daily Telegraph (London) (March 16, 1988)
"Influence, position and wealth are not given for nothing and we must try to use them as we would wish at the last we had done."
Jeremiah James Colman (1830–1898), British food industry executive
Source: Quoted in Enlightened Entrepreneurs (Ian Campbell Bradley, 1987), ch. 5
"Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power."
Michael Foot (1913–2010), British politician and writer
Source: Debts of Honour (1980)
"Monopoly is a terrible thing, till you have it."
Rupert Murdoch (1931–), Australian-born US CEO of News Corporation
Source: The New Yorker (1979)
"Powerful men in particular suffer from the delusion that human beings have no memories. I would go so far as to say that the distinguishing trait of powerful men is the psychotic certainty that people forget acts of infamy as easily as their parents' birthdays."
Stephen Vizinczey (1933–), Hungarian novelist and critic
Source: “Commentary on a Poem,” Horizon (October 1976)
"Whenever you're sitting across from some important person, always picture him sitting there in a suit of long red underwear. That's the way I always operated in business."
Joseph P. Kennedy (1888–1969), US entrepreneur, government official, and diplomat
Source: Quoted in No Final Victories (Lawrence O'Brien, 1974)
"But the relationship of morality and power is a very subtle one. Because ultimately power without morality is no longer power."
James Baldwin (1924–1987), US writer
Conversation between James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni.
Source: A Dialogue (1973)
"God must have loved the People in Power, for he made them so very like their own image of him."
Kenneth Patchen (1911–1972), US poet
Source: Quoted in the Guardian (London) (February 1, 1972)
"Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."
Henry Kissinger (1923–), German-born US diplomat and winner of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize
Source: New York Times (January 19, 1971)
"Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have."
Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), US activist
Source: “Tactics,” Rules for Radicals (1971)
"The quality of the will to power is, precisely, growth. Achievement is its cancellation. To be, the will to power must increase with each fulfillment, making the fulfillment only a step to a further one. The vaster the power gained the vaster the appetite for more."
Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–), US author
Source: The Lathe of Heaven (1971), ch. 9
"He did not care in which direction the car was travelling, so long as he remained in the driver's seat."
Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) (1879–1964), Canadian-born British newspaper owner and politician
Referring to British prime minister David Lloyd George.
Source: New Statesman (June 14, 1963)
"Power corrupts, but lack of power corrupts absolutely."
Adlai E. Stevenson (1900–1965), US statesman and author
Referring to Lord Acton’s quotation about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely.
Source: Quoted in the Observer (London) (January 1963)
"The appetite for power, even for universal power, is only insane when there is no possibility of indulging it; a man who sees the possibility opening before him and does not try to grasp it, even at the risk of destroying himself and his country, is either a saint or a mediocrity."
Simone Weil (1909–1943), French philosopher and activist
Source: “Cold War Policy in 1939,” Selected Essays (Richard Rees, ed, 1962)
"The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away."
Aneurin Bevan (1897–1960), British politician
Source: Quoted in Aneurin Bevan (Michael Foot, 1962), vol. 1, ch. 1
"Power intoxicates men. It is never voluntarily surrendered. It must be taken from them."
James F. Byrnes (1879–1972), US politician
Source: Quoted in the New York Times (May 15, 1956)
"Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true."
Eric Hoffer (1902–1983), US philosopher
Source: The Passionate State of Mind (1955)
"Power-worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible."
George Orwell (1903–1950), British novelist, critic, and essayist
Source: “Second Thoughts on James Burnham,” Shooting an Elephant (1950)
"Every Communist must grasp the truth. Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
Mao Zedong (1893–1976), Chinese revolutionary leader
Source: Speech to Central Committee, Communist Party (November 6, 1938)
"The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history."
Bertrand Russell (Earl Russell) (1872–1970), British philosopher and writer
Source: The Conquest of Happiness (1930), ch. 1
"A big man has no time really to do anything but just sit and be big."
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), US writer
Source: This Side of Paradise (1920)
"A friend in power is a friend lost."
Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918), US historian
Source: Education of Henry Adams (1907)
"The need to exert power, when thwarted in the open fields of life, is the more likely to assert itself in trifles."
Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929), US sociologist
Source: Human Nature and the Social Order (1902), ch. 5
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
John Dalberg-Acton, Lord Acton (1834–1902), British historian
Source: Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (April 5, 1887)
"Life is a search after power."
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), US essayist, lecturer, and poet
Source: “Power,” The Conduct of Life (1860)
"The good want power, but to weep barren tears.Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), British poet
The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.
… And all best things are thus confused with ill."
Source: Prometheus Unbound (1819), l. 625
"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens."
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), US president
Source: Letter to John Melish (January 13, 1813)
"Those who have been once intoxicated with power and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, never can willingly abandon it. They may be distressed in the midst of all their power; but they will never look to anything but power for their relief."
Edmund Burke (1729–1797), British philosopher and politician
Source: Letter to a member of the National Assembly (January 19, 1791)
"You must either conquer and rule or serve and lose, suffer or triumph, be the anvil or the hammer."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), German poet, playwright, novelist, and scientist
Source: Der Gross-Cophta (1791), bk. 2
"The stronger man's argument is always the best."
Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695), French writer and poet
Source: “The Wolf and the Lamb,” Fables (1668), bk. 1, fable 10
"Avoid having your ego so close to your position that, when your position fails, your ego goes with it."
Colin Powell (1937–), US general and secretary of state
Kept on his desk at the Pentagon.
"Behind the screen of the ballot, the real holders of power … are the great industrial and monetary monopolies who own our national economic life."
Florence Luscomb (1887–1985), US campaigner for women's suffrage, architect, and pacifist
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