Wise quotes on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from every US president

P Photo/William J. SmithPresident John F. Kennedy listens while Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg speaks outside the White House in Washington, 1963.

We collected some of the finest aphorisms to come from the Oval Office: life lessons from George Washington, leadership advice from Thomas Jefferson, and reflections on character from Abraham Lincoln.

These leaders all had one of the toughest, most important jobs in the world. Here are a few of the things they learned.


George Washington (1789–1797)

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John Adams (1797–1801)

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Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)

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James Madison (1809–1817)

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James Monroe (1817–1825)

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John Quincy Adams (1825–1829)

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Andrew Jackson (1829–1837)

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Martin Van Buren (1837–1841)

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William Henry Harrison (1841)

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John Tyler (1841–1845)

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James Polk (1845–1849)

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Zachary Taylor (1849–1850)

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Millard Fillmore (1850–1853)

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Franklin Pierce (1853–1857)

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James Buchanan (1857–1861)

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Abraham Lincoln (1861–1965)

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Andrew Johnson (1865–1869)

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Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877)

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Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881)

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James Garfield (1881)

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Chester Arthur (1881–1885)

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Grover Cleveland (1885–1889) (1893–1897)

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Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893)

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William McKinley (1897–1901)

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Teddy Roosevelt (1901–1909)

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William Taft (1909–1913)

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Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921)

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Warren G. Harding (1921–1923)

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Calvin Coolidge (1923–1929)

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Herbert Hoover (1929–1933)

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Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–1945)

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Harry S. Truman (1945–1953)

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Dwight Eisenhower (1953–1961)

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John F. Kennedy (1961–1963)

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Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969)

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Richard Nixon (1969–1974)

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Gerald Ford (1974–1977)

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Jimmy Carter, Jr. (1977–1981)

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Ronald Reagan (1981–1989)

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George H. W. Bush (1989–1993)

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Bill Clinton (1993–2001)

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George W. Bush (2001–2009)

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Barack Obama (2009–2017)

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Donald Trump (2017–present)

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Drake Baer contributed to an earlier version of this article.

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