Category Archives: Quotes

Maggie Kuhn


In the third post about the Play Me, I’m Yours piano installation in Mesa, AZ, I mentioned one of the reasons for writing given on the piano presented by Phonetic Spit was this: I write to speak my mind, even when my voice shakes.

I knew I’d seen some variation of the quote before, but who’d said it? Audre Lorde? Alice Walker? I did a Google search and found Maggie Kuhn was the woman who gave us those words.

Who’s Maggie Kuhn? I didn’t know either, until I did a little reading up on her.

According to,

Maggie Kuhn is best known for founding the organization often called the Gray Panthers [officially known at first as the Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change], a social activist organization raising issues of justice and fairness for older Americans. She is credited with the passage of laws prohibiting forced retirement and with reform in health care and nursing home oversight.

The Wikipedia article about Kuhn ( tells more about the work she and the Gray Panthers did.

In 1970, although [Kuhn] was working at a job she loved with the Presbyterian Church, she was forced to retire the day she turned 65 because of the mandatory retirement law then in effect. That year, she banded together with other retirees and formed the Gray Panthers movement. Seeing all issues of injustice as inevitably linked, they refused to restrict themselves to elder rights activism, but focused also on peace, presidential elections, poverty, and civil liberties. Their first big issue was opposition to the Vietnam War.

The Gray Panthers’ motto was “Age and Youth In Action,” and many of its members were high school and college students. Kuhn believed that teens should be taken more seriously and given more responsibility by society.

Kuhn raised controversy by openly discussing the sexuality of older people, and shocked the public with her assertion that older women, who outlive men by an average of 8 years, could develop sexual relationships with younger men or each other.

I couldn’t find any information about when or where Kuhn said or wrote her famous words advising us to speak our minds, but I did find the longer quote of which these words are part. The Presbyterian Historical Society ( gives the longer quote as

Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.

I suspect Maggie Kuhn would be quite pleased to know young people remembered her sentiment and wrote it on a piano in an Arizona town for all to see.


The Master’s Tools


I’ve been thinking about Audre Lorde in these days after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. I wonder what she would have said about the whole situation. I suspect she would have said something brave and intelligent, calm and pointed.

Unfortunately, Ms. Lorde is no longer with us, so we can’t know what she would have said. But words she said and wrote during her life on earth have been preserved, so we can continue to contemplate her ideas.

I’ve often read the quote (and quoted it myself) “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” But while researching this post, for the first time I read what came before and after those words and grasped more fully the concept Ms. Lorde wanted us to understand.

I won’t even try to interpret Lorde’s words here. I trust my readers are intelligent people. Besides, how could I possibly say it better than Audre Lorde said it herself?

Also, I think understanding comes more fully when each of us reads these words ourselves and allows them sink in a bit more and a bit more and a bit more with each exposure.

The Rhythm of Travel


I recently wrote about Clara Bensen’s book No Baggage. One of the things she wrote about travel struck me as particularly true.

This was the rhythm of travel–exhausting marathons of movement punctuated by surprising moments of calm where time slowed and there was nowhere to be except right here…

No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering

Optimistic Thought


I have a confession to make. The Grateful Dead was not my first jam band. No. Back in the last century, in the early 1990s, I had a wonderful (until he dumped me) boyfriend who played the harmonica. He introduced me to Blues Traveler.

Honestly, I didn’t even know they were a jam band. I didn’t even know what a jam band was. But recently I rediscovered the Blues Traveler of my early adulthood youth and realized…yep…jam band. I guess I’ve been a hippie for a long time.

Travelers And Thieves (Colored Vinyl)

I even saw the band perform at least three times. (My memory is a little fuzzy.) That’s not quite being on tour, but the only other band I’ve seen play more than once is Further.

My favorite Blues Traveler song (still) is “Optimistic Thought.” These are my favorite lyrics from the song:

Life I embrace you
I shall honor and disgrace you
Please forgive if I replace you
You see I’m going through some pain

But now I see clearly
And the dawn is coming nearly
And though I’m human and it’s early
I swear I’ll never forget again

The upbeat tempo and fab harmonica playing of John Popper are awesome as well.

Here’s a video of a (super fast) live performance of this song for your listening and viewing pleasure: