Presidential historians all have their favorite quotations of the 44 leaders of these United States of America.  Here is my personal list of the most meaningful and memorable; they touch on honesty, integrity, courage, character,  freedom of speech, immigration and vision in international affairs.

George Washington: Paying tribute to his soldiers after the 1783 peace treaty in Paris to end the Revolution:  “Happy, thrice happy, shall they be pronounced hereafter in erecting this stupendous fabric of freedom and empire on the broad basis of independence, and establishing an asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.”  April 18, 1783.

John Adams:  “Facts are stubborn things, and whatever our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  Boston massacre trials, December, 1770.

Thomas Jefferson:  “Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”  January, 18, 1787.

James Madison:  Arguing for a strong Constitution, to prevent the “violence and damage caused by factions,” Madison identified factions as “a number of citizens, whether a minority or a majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion or interest adverse to the rights of citizens or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the country.” Federalist Papers, October 27, 1787.

John Quincy Adams. “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will (America’s) heart, her benedictions, her prayers, be.  But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”  July 4, 1821.

Abraham Lincoln:  “It is for us the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here so nobly advanced …. That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” November 19, 1863, Gettysburg.

Theodore Roosevelt:  “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt:     “This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth.  This great nation will endure as it has endured.  (It is) my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” March 4, 1933; First Inaugural Address in midst of the Depression.

Harry S. Truman:  “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” 1948.

Dwight D. Eisenhower:  “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, . . . by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” January 17, 1961, Final address.

John F. Kennedy:  “And, so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  January 20, 1961, Inaugural address.

Richard M. Nixon:  Multiple choice:

1) “Well, I’m not a crook.”

2) “When a President does it that means that it’s not illegal.”

3) “I was not lying.  I said things that later on seemed to be untrue.”

4) “Nothing would please the Kremlin more than to have the people of this country choose a second-rate president.”

Ronald Reagan: “Are these profound changes or token gestures (in the Soviet Union)?  There is one sign that the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.  General Secretary Gorbachev: If you seek peace and prosperity for the Soviet Union and for eastern Europe, come here to this gate.  Mr. Gorbachev, Open this gate; tear down this wall.”  Brandenburg Gate, West Berlin, June 12, 1987.

George H. W. Bush:  “This is a victory for democracy and freedom, for the moral force of our values.  (Mikhail) Gorbachev’s “legacy guarantees him an honored place in history and provides a solid basis for the United States to work in equally constructive ways with his successors.”  December 25, 1991 address to the nation upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, delivered without any sense of triumphalism.

Barack Obama: “The long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, by a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.”  Farewell address, 2017.

Donald J. Trump:  Multiple choice:

1) “I just kiss them.  When you’re a star, you can do anything.  Grab them by the (genitals).”  (Access Hollywood tape recording in 2005, released in October, 2016.

2) “Why do we want all these people from (expletive) countries coming here?” At White House, January 18, 2018.

3) “I do think there’s blame- Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides.”  Comment after white nationalist/neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2017.

Is it any secret or mystery that the 170 scholars of the American Political Science Association, Democrat, Republican and Independent, in rating the 44 presidents for their integrity and effectiveness, placed Mr. Trump at rock bottom – No. 44 out of 44, displacing the previous cellar dweller, James Buchanan, whose ineptitude helped ignite the Civil War?  (There have been 45 presidencies, but only 44 presidents because Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms).

You decide.

The preceding was first printed in the Dallas Morning News. Frederic B. Hill, a former correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, conducted wargaming exercises on national security issues for the Department of State from 1986 to 2006.  He is co-editor of “The Life of Kings; The Baltimore Sun and the Golden Age of the American Newspaper (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). He lives in Arrowsic.

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