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14 Quotes That Define the 1970s

The 1970s was a defining historical decade, without which modern life would be unrecognizable. As the cultural revolution that took root in the 1960s progressed, the '70s saw major leaps forward in the fight for civil rights, as well as the women's liberation movement and LGBTQ+ rights.

This turbulent era also marked the end of the Vietnam War and saw one of the largest political scandals in U.S. history, Watergate. Meanwhile, the changing culture gave rise to a new wave of cinema, entire genres of music, and iconic moments that shaped the course of history.

These 14 quotes — from speeches, songs, and more — speak to the heart of the 1970s, a transformative decade that is still very much alive today.

People have got to know whether their President is a crook — well, I’m not a crook.
Richard Nixon, during a televised press conference on the Watergate scandal

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You may say I'm a dreamer / But I'm not the only one / I hope someday you'll join us / And the world will be as one.
John Lennon, “Imagine," which encapsulated the dream of world peace that permeated the decade

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The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.
From Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech, seen by many as a political misstep that doomed his 1980 reelection bid

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The force will be with you. Always.
From George Lucas’ “Star Wars,” one of the decade's most popular movies

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Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother / You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive.
Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive,” a song that defined the disco generation

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I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now," a scathing rebuke of the U.S. war in Vietnam

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OK, Houston, we've had a problem here.
Astronaut Jack Swigert, when the Apollo 13 crew experienced a life-threatening oxygen tank explosion en route to the moon

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Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go / I wanna be sedated.
"I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones, a band at the forefront of the punk rock movement

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I'd like to teach the world to sing / In perfect harmony / I'd like to buy the world a Coke / And keep it company.
Coca-Cola's "Hilltop" commercial, considered one of the greatest TV ads ever made

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If we are not our brother’s keeper, at least let us not be his executioner.
Marlon Brando, after rejecting the Best Actor Oscar in protest of the U.S. treatment of Native Americans

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If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.
Gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, recorded days before his assassination on November 27, 1978

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I said a hip-hop, the hippie, the hippie / To the hip, hip-hop and you don't stop
The Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip-hop song to gain widespread attention

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I don't think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime.
Margaret Thatcher, six years before becoming the U.K.’s first woman prime minister in 1979

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Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!
The opening line of “Saturday Night Live,” which debuted in 1975

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Featured image credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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