Manners are more important than laws. Upon them, in a great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.
Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter 1, 1796
Next from Thucydides, the ancient Greek historian, on the contributions of ordinary men ... (this quote is dedicated to the citizens of Cambridge) ...
Ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. The latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule every proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more important matters, and by such behavior too often ruin their country; while those who mistrust their own cleverness are content to be less learned than the laws, and less able to pick holes in the speech of a good speaker; and being fair judges rather than rival athletes, generally conduct affairs successfully. These we ought to imitate.
The History of the Peloponnesian War, ca. 400 B.C.
Finally, from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., doctor, writer and Boston Brahmin, on choosing a direction ... (this quote is dedicated to myself) ...
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it -- but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858
All of these quotes come from a calendar that got stuck in my drawer many years ago and has traveled with me on a few moves and a few life changes. The cover says "Best Wishes for 1995."