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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1115
AUTHOR: Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841–1935)
QUOTATION: The riders in a race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voice of friends and to say to one’s self: “The work is done.” But just as one says that, the answer comes: “The race is over, but the work never is done while the power to work remains.” The canter that brings you to a standstill need not be only coming to rest. It cannot be while you still live. For to live is to function. That is all there is in living.
ATTRIBUTION: Justice OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, radio address, March 8, 1931.—Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, His Book Notices and Uncollected Letters and Papers, ed. Harry C. Shriver, p. 142 (1936).

“Justice Holmes’ first and only radio address, delivered upon his ninetieth birthday, in response to felicitations from Chief Justice Hughes and the American Bar” (footnote 14, p. 142).

Twenty or thirty years earlier, Holmes had said, “Life is action, the use of one’s powers. As to use them to their height is our joy and duty, so it is the one end that justifies itself …” “Life is a roar of bargain and battle; but in the very heart of it there rises a mystic spiritual tone that gives meaning to the whole, and transmutes the dull details into romance …” “Man is born a predestined idealist, for he is born to act…. To act is to affirm the worth of an end and to persist in affirming the worth of an end is to make an ideal.”—Holmes, Speeches, pp. 85, 96, 97 (1913), as cited by Shriver, footnote 15, p. 142.