The Spark and Grandeur of Ambition

“I confess that for democratic times I am far less afraid of audacity of desire than of mediocrity. What is most to be feared, it seems to me, is that the spark and grandeur of ambition might be swallowed up by the ceaseless petty occupations of private life, and the human passions might subside and diminish at the same time, leaving society looking more tranquil but also less impressive as time goes by. I therefore think that the leaders of these new societies would be wrong to try to lull citizens into a state of unnecessarily undisturbed and peaceful prosperity, and that it is good for leaders to set difficult and dangerous challenges for their citizens from time to time so as to inspire ambition and create a theater for its expression.” Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Goldhammer Translation, p. 743

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