Back To Career News

25 Pearls of Wisdom From Former US Presidents

Topics: Career Advice

The job of the President of the United States is extremely challenging, and it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility and power. The people who have occupied this role have received varying degrees of acclaim for their work — but regardless of where presidential scholars rank them in terms of effectiveness, there’s a lot we can learn from our leaders, past and present.

former presidents
Image Credit: Diego Cambiaso

As this current election cycle ramps up for its final weeks, we may find ourselves thinking about what previous presidents brought to the job. Why not take a look back at some of the thought-provoking ideas U.S. presidents have shared over the years about work, career, and leadership. Here are a few interesting quotes to consider.

1. “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

2. “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Do You Know What You're Worth?

3. “Confidence … thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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

5. “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” – John F. Kennedy

6. “He who knows best knows how little he knows.” – Thomas Jefferson

7. “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – Ronald Reagan

8. “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” – John Quincy Adams

9. “Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.” – Theodore Roosevelt

10. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

11. “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” – Ronald Reagan

12. “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

13. “Work is about more than making a living, as vital as that is. It’s fundamental to human dignity, to our sense of self-worth as useful, independent, free people.” – William J. Clinton

14. “You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don’t believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee now.” – Harry S Truman

15. “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.” – Thomas Jefferson

16. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

17. “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves … self-discipline with all of them came first.” – Harry S. Truman

18. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

19. “A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.” – Grover Cleveland

20. “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

21. “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.” – George Washington

22. “Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

23 “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson

24. “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

25. “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” – Harry S. Truman

Sources: BrainyQuote,

Tell Us What You Think

What is your favorite quote from a former U.S. president? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.