The presidency of the United States represents the pinnacle of global leadership. As leader of a global superpower and commander-in-chief of the military, American presidents have had a controlling hand in world affairs since George Washington first took office in 1789. Since then they have presided over the most defining moments in modern history, from wars to economic booms and crashes to amazing developments in science and technology.
As the historic 2016 election campaign – one of the most bitter fights in American history – draws to a close, here are seven inspiring quotes about leadership from past and present U.S. presidents.
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.
Millard Fillmore served as the 13th President of the United States. Born in 1800, Fillmore overcame his family’s poverty to become a lawyer before entering politics. In 1850, the former cloth maker’s apprentice became the nation’s president. While his presidency was not a particularly successful one, Fillmore’s wise words may offer solace to Hillary Clinton, who was defeated by Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
“AN HONOURABLE DEFEAT IS BETTER THAN A DISHONOURABLE VICTORY.”
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
John Quincy Adams served as the United States’ sixth president, from 1825 to 1829. Regarded as one of history’s greatest diplomats following his time as Secretary of State, it is widely acknowledged he achieved little in foreign affairs during his presidency due to a hostile Congress. As president he campaigned for the construction of a national road network and a national university, and managed to pay down a large proportion of the national debt.
“IF YOUR ACTIONS INSPIRE OTHERS TO DREAM MORE, LEARN MORE, DO MORE AND BECOME MORE, YOU ARE A LEADER.”
Abraham Lincoln is one of America’s best known presidents, thanks to his part in the Civil War, abolishing slavery, and unfortunately for him, his untimely end at the hands of an assassin in 1865. In 1863 Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, one of the proudest moments of U.S. history.
“ALWAYS BEAR IN MIND THAT YOUR OWN RESOLUTION TO SUCCEED IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER ONE THING.”
Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt became 26th President of the United States in 1901 when he was just 42 years old, making him the youngest president in the nation’s history. A hero of the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt’s interest in conservation led to the establishment of a large network of national parks during his presidency, while his foreign policy efforts oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal, and the end of the Russo-Japanese War, which earned him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.
“WE MUST DARE TO BE GREAT; AND WE MUST REALISE THAT GREATNESS IS THE FRUIT OF TOIL AND SACRIFICE AND HIGH COURAGE.”
GEORGE H. W. BUSH
The world was undergoing great change when George H. W. Bush became president of America in 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union heralded the end of the Cold War, and in the early 1990s the U.S. invaded both Panama and Iraq. On the domestic front, Bush Snr. passed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, important laws designed to control air pollution in the U.S.
“NO PROBLEM OF HUMAN MAKING IS TOO GREAT TO BE OVERCOME BY HUMAN INGENUITY, HUMAN ENERGY, AND THE UNTIRING HOPE OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT.”
America’s 42nd president, William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton served from 1993 to 2001, a time of remarkable economic growth. His achievements include signing the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993 and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Clinton also oversaw U.S. military intervention in the Bosnia and Kosovo wars in the 1990s. His presidency was marred by impeachment in 1998, however he was acquitted and served out his term as president.
“IF YOU LIVE LONG ENOUGH, YOU’LL MAKE MISTAKES. BUT IF YOU LEARN FROM THEM, YOU’LL BE A BETTER PERSON. IT’S HOW YOU HANDLE ADVERSITY, NOT HOW IT AFFECTS YOU. THE MAIN THING IS NEVER QUIT, NEVER QUIT, NEVER QUIT.”
Barack Obama became the first African American president of the United States when he was sworn into office in 2008. During his presidency, Obama has been outspoken on issues including climate change, gun control and healthcare, which saw him pass his ‘Obamacare’ program into law in 2010.