Just a Thought: Presidential wisdom through the years


Several years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a week in Washington D.C. We enjoyed our visit to the nation’s capitol. While there we visited monuments, museums, the National Zoo, the White House, our Capitol building, Ford Theater, and nearby Gettysburg.
At a gift shop in a Smithsonian museum, I bought a book entitled “I Wish I Knew That, U.S. Presidents.” The book had a couple of pages on each of our previous 44 Presidents. The author of the book posted a single quote for each President at the beginning of the first page about that President. With so many quotes available for each one, it was interesting to see what quote the author used.
With the 2020 Presidential election only weeks away, I thought I would share some quotes and wisdom from our previous Presidents.
Lyndon Johnson’s quote is “You aren’t learning anything when you’re talking.” An interesting concept that is mostly true. Although you can still observe and intake information when your mouth is moving, using our ears is a better method of learning.
If all of the knowledge of the world was represented by 1000 gallons of water in a drum, the knowledge in our head would be a single tiny drop of water. There is so much more that each of us doesn’t know than what we can retain. The art of listening is a good practice for each of us...maybe that is why God gave us two ears and one mouth!
Jimmy Carter is quoted as saying “Wherever life takes us, there are always moments of wonder.” I fully agree with this quote. What you get out of life is directly tied to what you put into it. I believe we can find moments of wonder every day if we just look for them. We live in an exciting world and everyone of us has an exciting journey ahead...if we choose to make it so.
The quote by John F. Kennedy recognizes how complex we as humans are, “Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.” This is the difference between “God made” and “man made!”
Some of the quotes had to do with our youth. Herbert Hoover quipped a common truth, “Children are our most valuable resource.” Theodore Roosevelt spoke on the importance of us adults living a life that is worthy of our children following, “It is no use to preach to children if you do not act decently yourself.” Harry Truman’s quote is tongue in cheek, “The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do so.” Sometimes parenting seems that way.
Some Presidents’ quotes have to do with war. John Adams said “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” This is an interesting spin on why war is sometimes necessary. Ulysses Grant’s quote is “I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.” He truly understands what war is all about. William McKinley said, “War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.” I doubt any of our Presidents would disagree with this concept.
There are a few quotes that lean towards being humorous. Gerald Ford is quoted as saying “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote is “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Somehow I visualize the picture of a cat hanging off a knot at the bottom of a rope. Calvin Coolidge’s said, “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.” I had to read this quote several times...I am still not sure that I understand its significance.
Personally, I like best the quotes that reflect our human nature in a positive light. Martin Van Buren said “It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.” Living his advice removes the need for making excuses. Benjamin Harrison’s said, “The bud of victory is always the truth.” James Garfield’s quote encourages us to have courage to call a spade a spade, “A brave man is a man who dares to look the Devil in the face and tell him he is the Devil.” Bold advice.
Andrew Jackson is quoted for “Americans are not a perfect people, but we are called to a perfect mission.” I like his concept that the sum total is greater than the parts. James Monroe’s quote is “Our country may be likened to a new house. We lack many things but we possess the most precious of all - liberty.” So often we take for granted the freedoms that we each possess.
A couple of Presidents challenged our country to improve. Dwight Eisenhower said, “Only America can hurt America.” Add in Bill Clinton’s quote, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America” and we must recognize that where we are today is a result of our own internal choices, some good, some bad.
Our President who had to overcome the most internal turmoil while in office, Abraham Lincoln, is quoted for his view on slavery, “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Point well taken...what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
A couple of Presidents were quoted as to their views on politics. These are more relevant a few weeks before our November election. William Taft said, “Politics, when I am in it, makes me sick.” Andrew Johnson’s quote goes to the heart of his perspective of governing others, “The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.” James Madison shared, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
Warren Harding’s quote has probably been felt by many Presidents at many times in the history of our country, “I’m not fit for this office and never should have been here.” Richard Nixon’s quote is the shortest, “I am not a crook.” Enough said.
At the front of the book, under the Presidential Seal, is Lyndon Johnson’s quote that applies across the board, “The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands.”
My challenge to you today comes from a quote by John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” If you have the ability to motivate others to fly higher in the lives they live, then get out there and lead. Pour yourself into others. Make a difference in the lives of others.
Who knows? Maybe some day you will have a couple of pages devoted to you as a past President of our country. If this day comes, what quote would you want them to use for you?
Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.


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