This year, Presidents Day falls on February 19, 2024.
Presidents Day, which was originally created to celebrate George Washington's birthday, presents the perfect opportunity to learn more about the history of the United States.
From the beginning of our nation in 1776 to today, our elected leaders have shared their bits of wisdom and perspectives for over two centuries.
You may have heard famous quotes like Franklin D. Roosevelt's maxim "The only thing to fear is fear itself," or Calvin Coolidge's motivational saying, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence."
In the country's earliest days, the Founding Fathers shared their words of wisdom and hopes for America's future. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington encouraged Americans to "observe good faith and justice toward all nations" and "cultivate peace and harmony with all."
Through some of the greatest and most tragic events of American history, our presidents have encouraged, uplifted and inspired us with their words.
These profound quotes from former U.S. presidents will inspire you to reflect on our history this holiday.
50 inspirational quotes from U.S. presidents
- "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." — Theodore Roosevelt
- "No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." — Calvin Coolidge
- "We must not then depend alone upon the love of liberty in the soul of man for its preservation." — John Adams
- "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
- "All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings." — Barack Obama
- "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." — John F. Kennedy
- "Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation." — George Washington
- "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." — Woodrow Wilson
- "Strong hearts and helpful hands are needed, and, fortunately, we have them in every part of our beloved country." — William McKinley
- "National character cannot be built by law. It is the sum of the moral fiber of its individuals." — Herbert Hoover
- "We are bound together by the most powerful of all ties, our fervent love for freedom and independence, which knows no homeland but the human heart." — Gerald Ford
- "Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity." — Thomas Jefferson
- “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
- "If we do not want to die together in war, we must learn to live together in peace." — Harry S. Truman
- "If we want to invest in the prosperity of our nation, we must invest in the education of our children so that their talents may be fully employed." — Bill Clinton
- "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." — Barack Obama
- "It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences." — Harry S. Truman
- “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” — Calvin Coolidge
- "No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well-being, to risk his life, in a great cause." — Theodore Roosevelt
- "Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it." — Barack Obama
- "We must support our rights or lose our character, and with it, perhaps, our liberties." — James Monroe
- "Light itself is a great corrective. A thousand wrongs and abuses that are grown in darkness disappear, like owls and bats, before the light of day." — James A. Garfield
- "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about." — Woodrow Wilson
- “We have faith that future generations will know here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
- "I believe the declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest." — Abraham Lincoln
- "The strongest of all governments is that which is most free." — William Henry Harrison
- "The law is the only sure protection of the weak, and the only efficient restraint upon the strong." — Millard Fillmore
- “I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.” — Ulysses S. Grant
- "When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned." — Herbert Hoover
- "We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams." — Jimmy Carter
- "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
- "Peace is more than just an absence of war. True peace is justice, true peace is freedom, and true peace dictates the recognition of human rights." — Ronald Reagan
- "Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Americans have ever been a relentless, questioning, hopeful people." — Bill Clinton
- "Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time." — Lyndon B. Johnson
- "America is a great force for freedom and prosperity. Yet our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society." — George W. Bush
- "The problem to be solved is, not what form of government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect." — James Madison
- "There can be no greater good than the quest for peace, and no finer purpose than the preservation of freedom." — Ronald Reagan
- "The life of a republic lies certainly in the energy, virtue, and intelligence of its citizens." — Andrew Johnson
- "Men may die, but the fabric of our free institutions remains unshaken." — Chester A. Arthur
- "The will of the people is the source and the happiness of the people the end of all legitimate government upon earth." — John Quincy Adams
- “Free speech exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.” — Theodore Roosevelt
- "We have come tardily to the tremendous task of cleaning up our environment. We should have moved with similar zeal at least a decade ago. But no purpose is served by post-mortems. With visionary zeal but the greatest realism, we must now address ourselves to the vast problems that confront us." — Gerald Ford
- "I will keep America moving forward, always forward — for a better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light." — George H. W. Bush
- “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
- "Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." — Bill Clinton
- “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” — John F. Kennedy
- "History teaches, perhaps, very few clear lessons. But surely one such lesson learned by the world at great cost is that aggression, unopposed, becomes a contagious disease." — Jimmy Carter
- "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." — Dwight D. Eisenhower
- "The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten." — Calvin Coolidge
- "Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose." — Lyndon B. Johnson