Which President Is Credited with These Famous Quotes?

By: John Miller

“The only thing to fear is, fear itself."

In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The only thing to fear is, fear itself." And then, in front of dozens of journalists, he lovingly placed a neon green "No Fear" sticker on the tailgate of his pickup truck.

“Read my lips. No new taxes."

At the 1988 Republican National Convention, candidate George H.W. Bush said, "Read my lips. No new taxes." It was a statement that would haunt him time and again during his administration.

“We are the change that we seek."

As an orator, Barack Obama has had few equals in recent American history. His bold proclamations also helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize. "We are the change that we seek."

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

In an 1859 letter, Abraham Lincoln wrote these timeless words. His letter was a foreshadowing of a Civil War to come: "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it."

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

In 2000, George W. Bush uttered one of his many bizarre mistatements: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" And in doing so, he proved to all children that anyone — anyone at all — can be president, no matter their intellectual capacity.

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

In the ‘80s, many conservatives distrusted the idea of government assistance. So Reagan’s word rang true to them: "The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

Before Nixon and the Watergate scandal, Americans unwaveringly respected presidential authority. But with statements like this one, cynicism found root in the U.S.: "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

"Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt called it a "date which will live in infamy," and rallied his people to the cause of World War II.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

In the ‘90s, duplicity and dishonesty shot to startling heights in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The president in the eye of the storm? William Clinton.

“To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”

In a simpler time of dignity and grace, John Adams said it best: “To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do." But you know, he was still one of the weirdest guys ever to reach the presidency.

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

By all accounts, George Washington was an intimidating man, who who earned respect from all of his peers. "Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense human rights invented America."

Few presidents have been so closely linked with human rights, and Jimmy Carter was an unwavering voice of compassion during and after his term. "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense human rights invented America."

"My whole life is about winning. I don’t often lose. I almost never lose."

Few people will ever associate lack of egocentrism with Donald Trump, who has unveiled more than his share of memorable quotes, including, "My whole life is about winning. I don’t often lose."

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."

His time in office may have been cut short, but John Kennedy uttered a good number of memorable quotes in his life. One timeless moment came during a speech in which he said, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Anyone who heard George Bush speak in times of trouble likely wound up feeling even more troubled ... in part due to statements like this one: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

“Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin."

Dwight Eisenhower was a vital leader in times of both peace and war. And he knew that without justice ... there would be no peace. “Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin."

“No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation."

In 1915, at a press luncheon, Woodrow Wilson said of Europe’s turmoil: "No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation." Yet in the years that followed, Wilson sent American troops into the maelstrom of the Great War.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone."

In the ‘80s, a lot of people were left behind and struggling financially. Reagan encouraged everyone to help: "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone."

“A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Abe Lincoln uttered a great many memorable sentence in his life. But some of his greatest words ultimately touched on the issue of the Civil War.

"I love sports. Whenever I can, I always watch the Detroit Tigers on the radio."

I know, I know, you’re thinking G.W. Bush, but since he’s not an option here, what to do? Let’s go with Gerald Ford, another guy who uttered more than a few weird and illogical statements in public.

“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace."

Ulysses Grant was a war hero during the Civil War, but he was never a warmonger. Later he became president, in part because he exhibited wisdom like this: "I have never advocated war except as a means of peace."

“I'm the decider, and I decide what is best."

During his administration, Bush often looked so clueless that many people suspected that Vice President and cyborg Dick Cheney was the one actually calling the shots. But Bush put all that to rest with this classic: "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best."

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

James Madison was no sucker, he knew that laws and government were necessary, even in America. "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself."

Hey there, did you need some positive thinking regarding your government today? Look no further than this bit of fun from John Adams: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

Teddy Roosevelt was a man’s man who knew the power of intimidation at home and abroad. "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

“I have always been afraid of banks."

Jackson was a war hero who feared that a bubble could ruin the economy. His quote, "I have always been afraid of banks," was warped over time. It was actually, "Ever since I read the history of the South Sea Bubble, I have been afraid of banks."

“For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well organized and armed militia is their best security."

A brilliant president who served from 1801 to 1809, Thomas Jefferson offered up many ideas, including his thoughts on the militia. "For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well organized and armed militia is their best security."

"They misunderestimated me."

President Bush often struggled with, well, words. No one was surprised when he unleashed this one on the world at large: "They misunderestimated me."

“Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery."

Calvin Coolidge didn’t really accomplish must of note during his term. But he did leave behind this nugget of wisdom for tax-greedy politicians: "Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery."

"I was born for a storm, and a calm does not suit me."

Andrew Jackson lived his life as if he was going to die at any moment and once shot a man to death in a duel. He was indeed born for a storm, and he lived like it.

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Image: O'Halloran, Thomas J., photographer. Leffler, Warren K., photographer.

About This Quiz

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” So said the legendary President Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the best politician in America’s history. Of course, not all presidents have such amazing insights. Sometimes, though, we’re left with utterances like, "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully,” thanks to George W. Bush. Do you think you really know the presidents who gave life to the famous quotes in our quiz?

Teddy Roosevelt was part man, part real-life action hero. It’s no surprise that he once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” He also offered up this timeless bit: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.” Do you know any other memorable quotes from American history?

Not all of the most famous quotes in presidential history are from decades ago. Others are recent, from those about seeking change to those that say one “didn’t inhale.” In the same vein, some of the most famous quotes are famous not because they’re wise, but because they are rather … suspicious. Do you remember any of the fishiest statements from the Oval Office?

Whether they’re insightful, silly or borderline dumb, these quotes from America’s presidents are already permanent inscribed in our shared history. Take our presidential quote quiz now!

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