Quotes from Frederick Douglass – Self Reliance and Success

For me, very few people stand out in the history of the United States of America like Frederick Douglass.  As I first began learning about him and his life as a high school student in rural Virginia, his story, his suffrage and his legacy intrigued me in a way very few people’s story had.  As I discovered more about this man, my sense of admiration seemed to grow with every new bit of information I was able to find.  I think it’s normal for most people to find something interesting when they have a real connection to it and that is part of why my interest in Frederick Douglass became so strong as a youngster.  On the other hand, it’s probably not very common to see a fifteen year old kid sitting in a local library reading books about Frederick Douglass during summer break – but that’s what I did.  Much later on I realized that a relative of mine, Elihu Burritt, had written about Frederick Douglass during his exile to England.  Elihu was a staunch promoter of world peace and served as American consul to England appointed by President Abraham Lincoln.  He was one of the primary organizers of the predecessor to the United Nations and League of Nations known as the International Congress of the Friends of Peace which held a “Peace Congress” in Europe from 1843-1853.  Once I located some of the many writings of my ancestor Elihu Burritt, I noticed his tireless work in the anti-slavery movement, and his strong public support of Frederick Douglass and his message.  This new knowledge only increased the connection and interest I had for Frederick Douglass that continues to this day.

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My ancestor Elihu Burritt who I learned had a connection with Frederick Douglass which furthered my interest in his life, writings and inspirational message

The story of Frederick Douglass is pretty well documented and I certainly cannot shed light on any aspect of his character that others have not already done.  However, I do want to share with you some of my favorite passages and quotes from Frederick Douglass here on The Consummate Dabbler blog.  This man’s struggle and lifelong mission is one I greatly admire and the purpose for featuring him here is simply to share with you, my friends and readers, some of the power and conviction of this great man.

Frederick Douglass – Self Reliance & Success 

Read the Entire Self-Made Men Speech.

“The man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down.”
Self-Made Men speech

“Fortune may crowd a man’s life with fortunate circumstances and happy opportunities, but they will, as we all know, avail him nothing unless he makes a wise and vigorous use of them.”
Self-Made Men speech

“I do not think much of the good luck theory of self-made men. It is worth but little attention and has no practical value.”
Self-Made Men speech

“In such matter a wise man has little use for altars or oracle. He knows that the laws of God are perfect and unchangeable. He knows that health is maintained by right living; that disease is cured by the right use of remedies; that bread is produced by tilling the soil; that knowledge is obtained by study; that wealth is secured by saving and that battles are won by fighting. To him, the lazy man is the unlucky man and the man of luck is the man of work.” – Self-Made Men speech

Article: Thoughts on Living a Life of Meaning by Mahatma Gandhi

“We succeed, not alone by the laborious exertions of our faculties, be they small or great, but by the regular, thoughtful and systematic exercise of them.”
Self-Made Men speech

“The next best thing to success is a valid apology for non-success. It possesses the means of covering the small with the glory of the great.”
Self-Made Men speech

“Self-Made Men are those who owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, or friendly surroundings; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results. . . They are in a peculiar sense indebted to themselves for themselves.”
Self-Made Men speech

“Opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable.”
Self-Made Men speech

Frederick Douglass as an older man

These quotes and the entire text of Fredrick Douglass’ Self-Made Men speech hold my attention like few readings do.  This man was a visionary, a man of work and a man of great insight and wisdom.  It is a pleasure to have his great writings and speeches available to us today.  More than anything I truly admire the way in which Frederick Douglass never took the easy argument in any of his writings.  Instead of blaming and pointing fingers, he creates a call to action for all people to recognize the need for fairness and just opportunity – but to always work.  His ability to take complete responsibility for himself, his convictions and his future are something that captivated me even as a young man just discovering this man’s chapter in history.  I am still in awe of the immense strength, bravery and integrity of this great man and the power of conviction found in his speeches and writings.

Best to you my friends.  Take a page from the message of Frederick Douglass and work to find yourself, discover who you really are and what you are meant to be and how you can positively contribute to this world – and above all, be true to who you are.  And in closing I leave you with these timeless words from Frederick Douglass.

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.

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