Adlai Stevenson...on critcism
Since there is constant need for change and constant room for improvement, since there is scope for better and wider horizons in our daily life, I would ask by what other mechanism they can be achieved if the spirit of constructive criticism is stifled or abused. That "a nation without means of reform is without means of survival" is as true today as it was in the time of Burke, yet no reforms have ever been accomplished in free society without full, searching, and vigorous criticism. At times, such criticism has been resented. At all times, the attempt has been made to discount it by attacking and vilifying the motives of the critics. But democracy has never been saved either by slander or silence. Today, when mass literacy, mass communication, and a contracting ownershop of press and radio make conformity the easy option, it is all the more imperitive to enliven the attitude of questioning based upon honest concern for the general welfare and upon respect for the honesty of other people's critical approach.
For, paradoxical though it may seem, free criticism can flourish only in a society where mutual trust is strong. The spirit of criticism shivels when citizens distrust their neighbors and the give and take of confidence gives place to the silence of suspicion. The neighborliness, the charity, the very goodness of a society, can best be measured by the freedom with which men may honestly speak their minds. Criticism is therefore not only an instrument of free society. It is its symbol and hallmark as well.
- What I Think, 1956