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Monday, November 21, 2016

A giant in writings for liberty

“The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.” – Voltaire

One of history’s great thinkers and writers, François-Marie Arouet, known simply as Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.   Born on this date in 1694, he wrote down or espoused many of the ideas that influenced our own nation’s founding fathers (He was a longtime close friend of Benjamin Franklin, for example).

A versatile writer, Voltaire produced over 2,000 books and pamphlets, and wrote plays, poems, essays, and historical and scientific works. He also wrote more than 20,000 letters and was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties, despite the risk this placed him in with the leadership of his time.  He is often credited with the quote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."  Others say that what he really wrote, or said, was "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible
 for you to continue to write it."  Either way,                                   
that thought serves as a foundation for America’s 1st Amendment rights.

Fluent in five languages, including English, he also was a voracious reader and often said that while he was flattered by people thinking highly of his works, it was the thoughts and ideas of others that were the base for his own writings.   “Originality,” he said,  “is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers have always borrowed one from another.”

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