by S.M. Chen  |  23 February 2018  |  

I don’t know if Donald Trump reads USA TODAY.

The back page of the first section of the 2/13/18 issue caught my attention.

Someone named Tom Blair took out a full page ad entitled “Mr. President,” with the subheading: “In anticipation of Presidents’ Day (February 19) consider the following words of counsel and caution:”

Mr. Blair goes on in respectful manner to list over 50 quotations from notable individuals, including many past United States presidents. Not all are, in my opinion, equally memorable, but there are enough that I’d like to share some of the list, in case you missed the ad. While intended for our POTUS, some may resonate with you as they did with me.

Love him or hate him (one thing about our current POTUS: he does not seem to engender neutrality), think he’s doing a terrible or wonderful job, hope he gets impeached or goes on to be elected to a second term in office these quotes are thought-provoking at worst, inspiring at best. Some I’d not encountered before.

Forthwith, 20 of the best, listed as they appear in print:


  • Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough. ~President Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts. ~President John Adams

  • It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. ~President Harry Truman

  • I would rather the man who presents something for my consideration subject me to a zephyr of truth and a gentle breeze of responsibility rather than blow me down with a curtain of hot wind. ~President Grover Cleveland

  • How can we love our country, and not also love our countrymen? ~President Ronald Reagan

  • One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat. ~President Woodrow Wilson

  • This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in if it is not a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. ~President Theodore Roosevelt

  • Too often… we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. ~President John Kennedy

  • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. ~President George Washington

  • People who boast their IQs are losers. ~Stephen Hawking

  • When you single out any particular group of people for secondary citizenship status, that’s a violation of basic human rights. ~President Jimmy Carter

  • The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. ~President Franklin Roosevelt

  • A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both. ~President Dwight Eisenhower

  • Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. ~President Thomas Jefferson

  • It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones. ~President George Washington

  • No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar. ~President Abraham Lincoln

  • I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow. ~President Woodrow Wilson

  • We don’t want an America that is closed to the world. What we want is a world that is open to America. ~President George H.W. Bush

  • In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.


Curiously, and perhaps tellingly, I find none of these quotations address the issue of making America great again.

Could it be that greatness comes from within, and the less said about it the better?

It seems to me the truly great – whether in arts or sciences, sports or entertainment, or some other endeavor – are usually humble.  They recognize that, in addition to their own efforts, they have been recipients of the largesse of Someone or something greater than themselves.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727), English mathematician and physicist and one of the most influential scientists of all time, said that he had merely stood on the shoulders of some of the greats who had preceded him.  In his opinion, he had built upon the foundation they had laid.

Might it be that the lowly ant (“Go to the ant… consider her ways and be wise.” Proverbs 6:6), not known for blowing its own horn – pardon; waving its antenna – will be, in the hereafter, considered as great as the gorilla, known for thumping its chest but not mentioned at all in Holy Writ?


S.M. Chen writes from California

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