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Robin Williams: On Changing the World

By Published On: 12 August 2014Last Updated: 17 January 2017

Robin Williams left us too soon. One message we can take from this: Speak up, speak out, critically think, and never, ever give up.

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I had a raging case of the Mondays yesterday, and I was feeling a bit blue and overwhelmed last night. It can be exhausting to worry about things – whether they’re in your control or not. It can be emotionally taxing to think of the exploited human and non-human animals on this planet every day. It can be downright scary to think about the future when it’s so unclear. I was feeling all of those things as I watched a rerun and tried to distract myself.

Sometime after seven, my mother came into the room with the news: Robin Williams had died. My reaction was a shocked “WHAT?!?” Then tears. I couldn’t help but think about growing up watching this man, first as Mork from Ork, then as so many other characters – comedic and dramatic, and of course in some of the funniest stand-up I’ve ever seen. Mrs. Doubtfire paid an extended visit in my head last night. I thought of Williams’ daughter, Zelda, who just turned twenty-five. I thought of my own father, and his demons. We are all much more than our work; we leave a legacy to those around us as even as we struggle to navigate the world.

As social media blew up with the news, many shared their favorite quotes from films we all grew up watching. One quote, from Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society, is poignant:

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Today, perhaps, we activists, no matter what road we walk or what fight we fight, can remember those words. If you’re feeling blue, overwhelmed, exhausted, emotionally taxed, or scared, remember – words and ideas can change the world. They can save lives. Speak up, speak out, critically think, and never, ever give up. Your cause is worth fighting for, and so are you.

Photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons


  1. Daria Zeoli August 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your thoughts, Boopio. I actually did not write this with Robin’s plant-based diet in mind. Ethical vegans can learn from non-vegans, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles about Maya Angelou and my dad. Robin Williams very much changed the world in ways that don’t necessarily overlap with the vegan philosophy, but as you say, that doesn’t negate him.

  2. Elizabeth Nappier-Leslie August 17, 2014 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Doesn’t matter Boopio, he was a big animal lover too. His health just pushed him to the other side of the curve.

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…