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Barbara Jordan Quotes From The Woman and Politician of Many Firsts

These Barbara Jordan quotes reveal so much more about who she was.

Barbara Jordan is an iconic lawyer, educator, and politician.

But what is she best known for?

Her accomplishments are many, and frankly, quite impressive and history-making.

Barbara was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate following Reconstruction.

She was also the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Her “firsts” didn’t stop there either!

In 1976, she was the first African-American (and the first woman) to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

She even made history after her death, when she was the first black woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

Jordan was much more than just a list of “firsts;” she was a freedom pioneer and constitutional protector.

On July 25, 1974.

she delivered a 15-minute televised speech to the members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

This opening speech was given during the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon and is often called to be one of the greatest speeches of 20th-century American history.

Her staunch defense of the constitution did not go unnoticed, as she touted the importance of the checks and balances system.

Her clever and subtly worded rebuke of President Nixon showed her intelligence and patriotism, as she argued that the trust Americans had in their government would forever be broken.

Keep reading for some eloquent Barbara Jordan quotes and sayings about America, ethics, and even policy matters.

Don’t forget to also check out these Shirley Chisholm quotes on standing up for your beliefs.

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Check out more inspirational quotes on our motivational quotes category page.

Barbara Jordan quotes on the Constitution and America

1. “What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.” ― Barbara Jordan

2. “But this is the great danger America faces. That we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual. Each seeking to satisfy private wants.” ― Barbara Jordan

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3. “I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.'” ― Barbara Jordan

4. “We have made mistakes. In our haste to do all things for all people, we did not foresee the full consequences of our actions. And when the people raised their voices, we didn’t hear. But our deafness was only a temporary condition and not an irreversible condition.” ― Barbara Jordan

5. “We have a positive vision of the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise and reality of America can one day be finally closed. We believe that.” ― Barbara Jordan

6. “Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of forming this kind of a national community. It’s tough, difficult, not easy. But a spirit of harmony will survive in America only if each of us remembers that we share a common destiny.” ― Barbara Jordan

7. “Our concept of governing is derived from our view of people. It is a concept deeply rooted in a set of beliefs firmly etched in the national conscience of all of us.” ― Barbara Jordan

8. “Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.” ― Barbara Jordan

9. “The citizens of America expect more. They deserve and they want more than a recital of problems.” ― Barbara Jordan

10. “Let’s all understand that these guiding principles cannot be discarded for short-term political gains. They represent what this country is all about. They are indigenous to the American idea. And these are principles which are not negotiable.” ― Barbara Jordan

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11. “There is no executive order; there is no law that can require the American people to form a national community. This we must do as individuals and if we do it as individuals, there is no President of the United States who can veto that decision.” ― Barbara Jordan

If you enjoy this article, check out our collection of Maxine Waters quotes from the congresswoman.

Witty, funny, and straightforward Barbara Jordan quotes and sayings

12. “If you’re going to play the game properly, you’d better know every rule.” ― Barbara Jordan

13. “I never intended to become a run-of-the-mill person.” ― Barbara Jordan

14. “The imperative is to define what is right and do it.” ― Barbara Jordan

15. “Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.” ― Barbara Jordan

16. “If we promise as public officials, we must deliver. If we as public officials propose, we must produce.” ― Barbara Jordan

17. “Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave.” ― Barbara Jordan

18. “Life is too large to hang out a sign: ‘For Men Only.'” ― Barbara Jordan

19. “I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He’s just incapable of it.” ― Barbara Jordan

20. “There is no obstacle in the path of young people who are poor or members of minority groups that hard work and preparation cannot cure.” ― Barbara Jordan

21. “I really do not have much interest in being a symbol.” ― Barbara Jordan

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Wise Barbara Jordan quotes about education and other advice

22. “Do not call for black power or green power. Call for brainpower.” ― Barbara Jordan

23. “Education remains the key to both economic and political empowerment.” ― Barbara Jordan

24. “What we have to do is strike a balance between the idea that government should do everything and the idea, the belief, that Government ought to do nothing. Strike a balance.” ― Barbara Jordan

25. “It is reason, and not passion, which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.” ― Barbara Jordan

What did you learn from these Barbara Jordan quotes?

Barbara Jordan’s speech centered on the founding fathers and their caution against abusing power earned Jordan national attention and praise for her understanding and application of morals and wisdom.

However, she was instrumental in several progressive acts of legislation including the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977.

The law required banks to lend and make services available to typically denied poor and minority communities.

She also went against the Texas governor and secretary of state when she defended the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The legislation covered language minorities extending voting protection to Hispanics in Texas.

She also wrote legislation that ended federal authorization of price-fixing by manufacturers.

She worked hard during her time as a Congresswoman, sponsoring (or cosponsoring) over 300 bills or resolutions.

Several of them are still laws today!

Her contributions didn’t stop there, though.

From 1994 until her death in 1996, which was because of pneumonia complications, Jordan chaired the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.

She was only 59 when she died, which means she would have been in her 80s, during our current political environment.

I wonder what her contributions would have looked like?

What do you think Barbara Jordan’s most significant contribution to the future she spoke about was?

Do you have any other favorite Barbara Jordan quotes and sayings to add?

You can let us know in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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