A Few Thoughts on Leadership from Past Presidents
By the MY100DayPlans Team

This Presidents’ Day the My100DayPlans team is thinking a lot about presidential leadership. We were reviewing C-SPAN recent survey of 91 presidential historians, ranking each of the the 44 presidents on leadership characteristics, including traits such as  “moral authority,” “international relations ,” and “pursuit of equal justice.”

It made us think of where 45 could possibly end up on this list. And in light of these reflections, we offer up some guidance for the current president from a few of the presidents who came before. These quotes are also reminders for all of us to think about what we not only request but demand of our presidents, what kinds of values we hope they might embody, and what visions they might inspire.

John Adams
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

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

“Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”

Dwight Eisenhower
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

Abraham Lincoln
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

Barack Obama
“I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

James Polk
“In his official action he should not be the President of a part only, but of the whole people of the United States. While he executes the laws with an impartial hand, shrinks from no proper responsibility, and faithfully carries out in the executive department of the government the principles and policy of those who have chosen him, he should not be unmindful that our fellow-citizens who have differed with him in opinion are entitled to the full and free exercise of their opinions and judgments, and that the rights of all are entitled to respect and regard.”

Ronald Reagan
“We the people tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us.”

“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

Harry S. Truman
“Of course, there are dangers in religious freedom and freedom of opinion. But to deny these rights is worse than dangerous, it is absolutely fatal to liberty. The external threat to liberty should not drive us into suppressing liberty at home. Those who want the government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination.”

Woodrow Wilson
“I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticize their own public officials.”

“You are not merely here to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”