Can You Complete These Famous Presidential Quotes?

HISTORY

John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Frank O. Salisbury

About This Quiz

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog." It’s one of the most famous quotes from an equally impressive president named Dwight Eisenhower. Whether it was Eisenhower or Clinton, America’s presidents — particularly the recent ones — seem to be in love with the sound of their own voices, proffering what they believe is sage wisdom to anyone who will listen. Do you think you know the quotes in our quiz well enough to finish them?

Although he loathed public speaking, Thomas Jefferson used his quill and ink to provide plenty of whip-smart comments for the ages. “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." Did you already know that timeless quote … or would you need help completing it?

From George Washington to George H.W. Bush, America’s presidents have always had a lofty perch from which to dispense advice, and they do it. Can you finish this one from Calvin Coolidge? "If you see ten ______ coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you." The answer is not Communists … it is “troubles.”

Let’s see if you really know your presidents and their quotable truths (and untruths). Maybe you can guess even better ways to complete these eternal presidential utterances in our quotable quiz!

“A president’s hardest task is not to do what is right, but to ______.”

Lyndon Johnson was vice president when John Kennedy was assassinated, and he was thrust into a terrible situation. He made the best of it but sometimes struggled. "A president’s hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right.”

Advertisement

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to ____ is ____ itself."

During his first inauguration speech, Franklin Roosevelt uttered a famous line. "This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance..."

Advertisement

Dwight Eisenhower said, "______ never won any battle."

Eisenhower won a whole lot of battles in his day as the leader of American forces in WWII. He knew that, "Pessimism never won any battle."

Advertisement

"We the people tell the ____ what to do, it doesn’t tell us."

Ronald Reagan was often decrying big government, saying that it should work for the people and not the other way around. He said, "We the people tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us."

Advertisement

“Ask not what your _____ can do for you, but what you can do for your ____."

During his inauguration speech, John Kennedy espoused the virtue of selflessness when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Advertisement

“We are the _____ that we seek.”

Barack Obama often used his big smile and charasmatic appeal to encourage people to do better with their lives. "Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Advertisement

“Associate yourself with men of ____ quality if you esteem your own reputation."

George Washington knew the value of associating with people of good quality. That philosophy served him well through the Revolution and two presidential terms.

Advertisement

George W. Bush said, "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some _____."

It’s hard to know whether the former cheerleader-turned-president ever read a book. "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."

Advertisement

Bill Clinton said, "We must teach our children to resolve their conflicts with _____, not weapons."

Clinton’s only real weapon was his words, which he deployed with immense power during his two terms. "We must teach our children to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons."

Advertisement

William McKinley said, "In the time of darkest defeat, _____ may be nearest."

McKinley was an exceptional man, the last of America’s presidents to have served in the Civil War. He said, "In the time of darkest defeat, victory may be nearest."

Advertisement

William H. Harrison said, "____ change, and we change with them."

“Times change, and we change with them." So said William Harrison, and his words were prescient, as the country was forced to change quickly after he died 33 days into office.

Advertisement

George W. Bush said, "We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the _____."

Bush always had a way with — what do you call them? — oh yeah, "words." He constantly picked the wrong word at the wrong time. "We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers."

Advertisement

Lyndon Johnson said, "“For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed _____ and the unclimbed ____."

Johnson appealed to the American sense of wonder and bravery in the face of the unknown. “For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the unplowed ground.”

Advertisement

Millard Fillmore said, "An honorable ____ is better than a dishonorable victory."

Fillmore is the guy who married his own schoolteacher, so he knew a lot about honor. "An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory."

Advertisement

"Whatever you are, be a good _____."

Aspiring writer? Hopeful lawyer? Sadistic serial killer? Abraham Lincoln encouraged people to do their best no matter what they wanted to do with their lives. "Whatever you are, be a good one."

Advertisement

“I have always done my duty. I am ready to ____."

Just before he died from a terrible stomach illness, war hero and president Zachary Taylor said to his wife, "I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me."

Advertisement

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him _____."

Honest Abe had more character in his little finger than Bill Clinton had in his little ... well, I digress. Lincoln said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

Advertisement

Woodrow Wilson said, "“I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with _____."

Wilson struggled with the idea of sending American troops to WWI, but in the end, he did it. In part because, "I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.”

Advertisement

Ronald Reagan said, "As government expands, liberty _____."

As always, Reagan sounded the alarm on big government. "As government expands, liberty contracts."

Advertisement

“Most people are about as ___ as they make up their minds to be."

Abraham Lincoln fought depression for a good portion of his life. So he was speaking from experience when he said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Advertisement

Calvin Coolidge said, "Nothing in the world can take the place of _____."

It’s probably Coolidge’s best-known quote. "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Advertisement

Richard Nixon was talking about power when he said, "“…Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how _____ it is to be on the highest mountain…”

Nixon looked like a power-hungry freak by the time his scandal-stained administration ended. A (terribly out-of-context) quote like this doesn’t change that perception. “…Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain…”

Advertisement

“Any man worth his _____ will stick up for what he believes right."

Andrew Jackson was a commensurate fighter, one who resorted to fisticuffs a time (or 100) in his life. "Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error."

Advertisement

Ronald Reagan said, "Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just ____."

Reagan tried to lift up common people time and again with his speeches. He once said, "Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver five minutes longer.”

Advertisement

Abraham Lincoln said, “I am a slow ____, but I never ____ backwards”

Lincoln was far more deliberate than today’s headline-seeking politicians. He said, “I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards."

Advertisement

George W. Bush said, "a _____ is someone who brings people together."

Bush, always the ineloquent Commander-in-Chief, famously said, "a leadership is someone who brings people together."

Advertisement

Calvin Coolidge said, "Governments do not make ____, but ____ make governments."

“Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments." Those were the words of Coolidge, who reportedly loved having Vaseline smeared on his head every morning, and we did not make that up.

Advertisement

“Ninety-nine percent of failures come from _____ who make excuses.”

George Washington understood that the greatest triumphs come from hardship. He also advocated for accountability. "Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who make excuses.”

Advertisement

William Harrison once said, “I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will ____ in the process.”

Harrison could well have been commenting on the often-sad sweatshops of today he uttered this one. “I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.”

Advertisement

Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must ______."

Lincoln was a veritable fountain of wisdom, often offering up advice that initially seemed counterintuitive. “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Advertisement

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes