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Selected Quotes

On Freedom

“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.”

The Right of the People, (1958)

“As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

September 10, 1976 letter to the Washington State Bar Association

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

“The One Un-American Act”. Nieman Reports, (1953)

“The dissent we witness is a reaffirmation of faith in man; it is protest against living under rules and prejudices and attitudes that produce the extremes of wealth and poverty and that make us dedicated to the destruction of people through arms, bombs, and gases, and that prepare us to think alike and be submissive objects for the regime of the computer.”

Points of Rebellion, (1969)

Pacific Beach, Washington, 1958

On Mountains

“For myself it is a testing ground of my strength and endurance, a pitting of finite man against one of the great rigors of the universe.  A man – or girl – can get to know himself – or herself- on the mountain.  He gets to know his inner strength-the power of the soul to add to the power of the legs and lungs. In the solitude of the mountains – especially on the highest peaks- he is close to the heavens, close to the outer limits of the earthly zone.  It is for me easy, therefore, to have communion with God and to come to understand terms of my own being.”

November 6, 1954 letter to a Seattle schoolgirl, The Douglas Letters, (1987)

“As I walked the ridge that evening, I could hear the Chinook on distant ridges before it reached me.  Then it touched the sage at my feet and made it sing.  It brushed my cheek, warm and soft.  It ran its fingers through my hair and rippled away in the darkness.  It was a friendly wind, friendly to man throughout time.  It was beneficent…”

Go East, Young Man, (1974)

“Man must be able to escape civilization if he is to survive.  Some of his greatest needs are for refuges and retreats where he can recapture for a day or a week the primitive conditions of life.”

“If our wilderness areas are preserved, every person will have a better chance to maintain his freedom by allowing his idiosyncrasies to flower under the influence of the wonders of the wilderness.”

“Most glacial peaks exude an atmosphere of mystery.  There is wonderment at the forces that created it. The sheer beauty of basalt cliffs, glacial ice, snow-covered summits, and the blue sky is tranquilizing.  The clash and turmoil of civilization are far behind.  Now one faces the elemental forces-those that produced the great mountain, those that are in the process of leveling it.”

“…to be whole and harmonious, man must also know the music of the beaches and the woods.  He must find the thing of which he is only an infinitesimal part of and nurture it and love it, if he is to live.”

“If the sun sets clear, there is a moment before the mountain is swallowed up by the darkness when it is brightly luminous, incandescent, a startling ball of cold light.  When the full moon rises, the distant snow fields dimly reflect a golden glow.  Then the mountain seems so far, so remote, as to belong to another world.”

My Wilderness, The Pacific West, (1960)

Goose Prairie, Washington, 1972

Aspen, Colorado, 1960

On Global Perspectives

“The trips were unconventional.  For the most part I kept out of the lanes of tourist travel.  While I saw some of the sights and visited the capitals, I spent most of my time in the mountains and villages, travelling on foot, by horseback, or by jeep and stopping to talk with most of the goatherds and peasants I met along the way.  I usually carried complete camping equipment with me, put my bedroll down in or near a village at night, and sat up late discussing problems with the villagers or a local khan or kalantar.  In a word, I spent most of my time with the common people of these countries, rather than with officialdom.”

Strange Lands Friendly People, (1951)

“Our journey across Afghanistan might well be called “Adventures in Friendship.” Never has adversity worked so strongly against a traveler; never has one been so warmly and generously received along the highways and byways. Trouble seemed to follow us all the way across the Hindu Kush and for hundreds of miles along the Russian border; and at the same time good Samaritans without number always were at hand to ease the way. History books tell us that Afghans are brigands. But our journey taught us that they are the friendliest people we ever knew.”

West of the Indus, (1958)

Afghanistan, 1951

Photos courtesy of Yakima Valley Museum