My Favorite Quote About Words

March 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm 10 comments

“There was power in the pen, I knew this for certain…It was there all the time, just waiting for me.” Shay Youngblood, in Black Girl in Paris

This is my favorite quote about words.

Eden is a young African-American woman who has come to Paris, following the trail of her literary heroes, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.

Black Girl in Paris is the story of Eden’s journey to become a writer, and most especially her hard-won discovery that she holds the power to create her own destiny within herself.

I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that these words come toward the end of the book.

But I think I will suggest that you read the book if you want to know why I love this quote.

It’s a very fine book indeed. Well worth reading.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland.  She teaches literature courses in Paris and Hawaii for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and twice a year she offers Writing from the Heart workshops in a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.


Entry filed under: About Writers and their Work, Why Words Matter. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pat Ferryman  |  March 11, 2011 at 3:42 am

    I read the coments about Jefferson and what words changed the earth. I will never forget sitting with my parens and listening to Martin Luther King Jr. make his I Have a Dream Speach. That was almost 50 years ago and I still teach it every year in my classrooms. I remind my self how we are all the same on the inside and how we have to be taught to hate. The movie South Pacific had a line in there about We have to be taught to hate and to fear. We have to be taught year after year. We have to be carefully taught.
    I make a point of teaching my students to respect themselves and each other. To not hate a race because of the color of their skin or the actions and behaviors of a few. My father taught me and I taught my children if you think you have to be predjudice against something then be predjudice agains biggots, hipocrites and walking rectums.

  • 2. Janet Hulstrand  |  March 11, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Thanks for your comments, Pat, and I agree with you that Martin Luther King Jr’s speech is one of the most important, and most inspiring speeches ever made.

    It was an interesting exercise, to try to think what one document or speech was the “most” important. I chose Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence because I think so many other important speeches–including MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech flowed (at least in part) from that source.

    And I know exactly the song you mean (except I think maybe it was from The King and I). My Mom loved Broadway musicals and we always listened to them when I was growing up.

    It’s true, children DO have to be taught to hate (but not to love, I think that comes naturally).

    So why do we go to so much trouble to do the wrong thing?

    • 3. Pat Ferryman  |  March 16, 2011 at 4:11 am

      At the Party. I will get the movie out and watch again but It seems it is the men oh oh it is after the Frenchman introduces his children to the girl.
      And she is shocked to see he has children. She runs off crying and drives back to the base in her checkerd dress and he sings the song. or I think that is when it is.
      I have most o fthe Rand H movies. I love them.

  • 4. Janet Hulstrand  |  March 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    P.S. To Pat MY MISTAKE! You were right about South Pacific! Now I have to figure out what scene it came from…or maybe you can tell me? 🙂

  • 5. Pat Ferryman  |  March 16, 2011 at 4:16 am

    I have searched for days to find a blog that interested me in some way. I have an assignment to blog for 8 weeks in a meaningful conversation.
    I thank you for your response and hope we can continue. I love words and teach my students the p ower of words. They can hurt and they can heal, they can teach and they can tear down.
    The Decloration of Independence is truly the master document for the beginning of our country. If you have ever seen the movie on the writing of the Decloration then you understand my concern over the hundreds of changes that were made before the document was finally signed. The vote was extremely close because our esteemed leaders were fighting over wording about slavery, freedom, the way to address the King. and so on. If you like the musicals you will love this one. It is funny, serious, humerous, dramatic, and edgy in its approach to politics. 1776 is the name of the movie.

    • 6. Janet Hulstrand  |  March 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm


      I am so happy that you are enjoying my blog, and so pleased to make your “acquaintance.”

      I truly feel that one of the greatest foundations of our democracy, imperfect and flawed though it is, are a handful of amazingly powerful speeches and documents written by American heroes, starting with the Declaration of Independence (which of course also had its roots elsewhere), and going right up to the present day with some of Barack Obama’s best speeches.

      Though we have not yet made the dream come true for “all men” (and women too of course :)), I do believe that we are moving steadily (most of the time) in the right direction. And that it is our duty and obligation as American citizens to take those words to heart and try to find ways large and small to make them come true.

      I have never seen 1776 but I am so glad you told me what it’s about. I’m putting it on my Netflix list RIGHT NOW! Thank you!

      And I think you must be a wonderful teacher. How lucky your students are to have someone who believes in the power of words, and wants them to understand that power, and use it to make the world a better place.

  • 7. loretta Foxgrover  |  May 9, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Janet – probably the most inconsequential post you will get on your great blog but you have to be my age to know that the song about “you have to be carefully taught” was sung by the young lieutenant to Bloody Mary’s daughter in South Pacific.

    • 8. Pat Ferryman  |  May 13, 2011 at 3:19 am

      I think you are correct. I have to get my movies back from a friend to watch it again. I still think that is one of the most profound songs every written.

    • 9. Janet Hulstrand  |  May 21, 2011 at 12:08 am

      Loretta, So nice to hear from you and thank you for settling this question for us! I grew up listening to these musicals, but it was always listening only (to my Mom’s records). So a lot of times I don’t know the story, just the songs…Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog and I will try to get back to yours again

      also. I hope you are doing well and enjoying Life In the Eighties! xoxoxo

  • 10. Loretta  |  September 6, 2011 at 3:58 am

    It’s similar to the old saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ I like reading books where authors discover their writing journey. I have books from Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Stephen King where they talk about their writing experiences.


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