Famous Quotes from U.S. Presidents


By: Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

They have one of the biggest soapboxes imaginable, making their words instantly part of world history. How much do you know about famous quotes from U.S. presidents?

"Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war."

During World War I, Herbert Hoover gained worldwide respect for his aid missions to Belgium. When he was elected as president, he had never before served in public office.


"A long visit to a friend is often a great bore. Never make people twice glad."

Speaking of boring, James Buchanan was the only president never to marry. He was also one of the worst presidents of all time, as his policies contributed towards issues that sparked the American Civil War.


"When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly."

Washington wrote this line as a part of a letter to Edmund Pendleton in 1795. He was referring to the idea that Native Americans were likely to dislike white settlers for their expansionism, no matter what the government did to appease the natives.


"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence."

Coolidge followed that immortal with these bits of wisdom: "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.”


"An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory."

Fillmore grew up in poverty and rose through the political ranks to become vice president. With Zachary Taylor's sudden death, Fillmore unexpectedly became president, but served for only about a year.


"Our differences are policies; our agreements, principles."

McKinley was adept at forging agreements within a divided country. He served in the Civil War and then led the U.S. to victory during the Spanish-American War.


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

Lincoln was well aware of the corrupting influence of power. He wanted to disseminate power throughout the states when the Civil War ended in hopes of speeding up the reconciliation process but was assassinated before he could.


"The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution."

Pierce's support of policies such as the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act actually heightened conflict across the land during the mid-1850s. His presidency was one of the worst, helping to fuel the fires of secessionism.


"One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to be supplied is light, not heat."

Wilson was a religious man who lived by his faith. He was very hesitant to enter World War I, but when he finally made the decision, he wanted to make the world safe for democracy, no matter the cost.


"May the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity, and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family."

Polk was a bold man who accomplished all of his campaign goals after he became president. Once his term was up in 1849, he kept his pledge not to run for president again.


"System in all things is the soul of business."

Washington was a careful organizer, both personally and professionally. He believed that careful daily actions added up to long-term success.


"Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him."

Dwight Eisenhower was renowned for his bravery and intelligence. He fought his way to the top of the military food chain and then had the political savvy to become a popular two-term president.


"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."

Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression throughout his life, even at the heights of his presidency. But he found the strength to triumph over his personal demons as he helped the nation overcome its hardships.


"Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in."

Jackson was a man of action. During the American Revolution, he was just 13 when he was captured by the British for his work as a courier. Before becoming president, he was a war hero at the Battle of New Orleans.


"I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it."

Harry S. Truman only had one child (Margaret) but he had the wisdom to guide her passions and desires. Truman had the same knack for guiding reluctant troops on the battlefield, as he proved time and again during World War I.


"We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage."

Theodore Roosevelt, the nation's 26th president, was a master orator. He reached the highest office in the land at age 42 after the assassination of William McKinley.


"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

Adams was the sixth president of the country, the son of John and Abigail Adams. He was renowned for local leadership as a representative in Massachusetts, even more so than for his work as president.


"Piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose."

Jimmy Carter has always been respected for his humanitarian work and personal sacrifice. Following his presidency, he spent much of his life working on peace projects.


"Honest conviction is my courage; the Constitution is my guide."

Andrew Johnson was a rebel amongst rebels. When the South seceded, he was the only Southern senator who didn't give up his seat. He became president after Abraham Lincoln's assassination.


"No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar."

This one came from the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. As all people (particularly politicians) eventually learn, lying always winds up mostly hurting the liar.


"The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep."

The American dream was a nightmare at times during Nixon's administration. But he did help to guide some American dreams, such as the Apollo 11 moon landing.


"When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred."

Jefferson was a veritable font of wisdom in his day. He was a steady leader who understood that an even temperament was the best for both presidents and citizens.


"I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process."

Benjamin Harrison was a lawyer and Union colonel who became the 23rd president. He passed important economic policies like the McKinley Tariff, which provided protective trade rates. He was also heavily involved in creating the Sherman Antitrust Act.


"The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave."

Ronald Reagan led a bold administration during his two terms. He presided over the end of the Cold War, reduced inflation and ended his time in office as one of the most popular presidents in history.


"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action."

In 1783, less than 10 years after the American Revolution, George Washington address Congress with this line. His leadership and heroism (and his elegant language) meant that he left behind a plethora of good quotes by which to remember him.


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

As one of the men involved in the debacle of the Vietnam War, Johnson understood this quote down to his very core. Big decisions have big consequence for millions of people.


"The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty."

James Madison was president from 1809 to 1817. He was a co-writer of the "Federalist Papers," which helped develop the ideas for the U.S. Constitution.


"Good ball players make good citizens."

No word if Chester Arthur was any good at ball, but he certainly stood up for his beliefs. As a young, politically active student, he once got into a fistfight in support of Henry Clay, who was running against James Polk.


"The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."

Ulysses S. Grant was a Civil War hero, a Union general who won some of the conflict's biggest battles. He was also a good president, and he was elected not once, but twice.


"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Beyond being the nation's first African-American president, Barack Obama was known for giving some pretty good speeches too.


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