Great Words From Presidents Of The 20th Century

Our nation has been led by many great men for more than two centuries. During that time, a lot of momentous events have occurred — some good, and some tragic — and our Presidents have always been there to speak to the nation. From inspiring change and motivating troops during wartime to helping the nation heal after a tragedy, some great speeches have come from the men leading the country.

Looking back on those events, one must also remember what was said at the time — for history’s sake, for remembrance, for context, and for inspiration that lives on in so many immortal words to this day. So many of the great speeches that impacted the nation and the world at the time are just as stirring and powerful today as they were when they were first spoken.

Collected below are 10 great quotes by great men who were at one time the President of the United States of America.

1. Woodrow Wilson

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.” speaking to Congress in 1917 on going to war.

2. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.” — from his first Inaugural Address to the nation.

3. Harry Truman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Events have brought our American democracy to new influence and new responsibilities. They will test our courage, our devotion to duty, and our concept of liberty. But I say to all men, what we have achieved in liberty, we will surpass in greater liberty. Steadfast in our faith in the Almighty, we will advance toward a world where man’s freedom is secure. To that end we will devote our strength, our resources, and our firmness of resolve. With God’s help, the future of mankind will be assured in a world of justice, harmony, and peace.” — from his 1949 Inaugural Address.

4. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“We never have, we never will, propose or suggest that the Soviet Union surrender what is rightfully theirs. We will never say that the peoples of Russia are an enemy with whom we have no desire ever to deal or mingle in friendly and fruitful relationship. On the contrary, we hope that this coming Conference may initiate a relationship with the Soviet Union which will eventually bring about a free intermingling of the peoples of the East and of the West–the one sure, human way of developing the understanding required for confident and peaceful relations. Instead of the discontent which is now settling upon Eastern Germany, occupied Austria, and the countries of Eastern Europe, we seek a harmonious family of free European nations, with none a threat to the other, and least of all a threat to the peoples of Russia. Beyond the turmoil and strife and misery of Asia, we seek peaceful opportunity for these peoples to develop their natural resources and to elevate their lives. These are not idle words or shallow visions. Behind them lies a story of nations lately come to independence, not as a result of war, but through free grant or peaceful negotiation. There is a record, already written, of assistance gladly given by nations of the West to needy peoples, and to those suffering the temporary effects of famine, drought, and natural disaster. These are deeds of peace. They speak more loudly than promises or protestations of peaceful intent.” — from his “Atoms for Peace” Speech at the United Nations.

5. John F. Kennedy

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. 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.” — from his 1961 Inauguration speech.

Continue to the next page for more great quotes from Presidents!

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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.