Presidential quotes resonate in present

The Indiana State Library recently displayed an exhibit titled “Pop-Art Presidents” by Missy C. Adams. Underneath portraits of the presidents were quotes from each of them.

Donald Trump, perhaps because he hasn’t been in office long enough, had no quote under his portrait, but I can think of alternative reasons a tweet did not appear below his portrait.

I have taken the liberty of applying some of these presidential quotes to situations applicable to our times.

Fake news:

“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.” — John AdamsInvestigative journalism:“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” — James Madison Jr.

“The truth will set you free, but first, it will make you miserable.” — James Garfield

Civil rights:

“One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from repressing minorities or encroaching upon their first rights.” — James Polk

Accruing power of the executive branch:

“There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power.” — William Henry Harrison

Trump’s historic victory:

“It is not strange … to mistake change for progress.” — Millard Fillmore“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” — Abraham Lincoln

“You aren’t learning anything when you’re talking.” — Lyndon Johnson

Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act:

“Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer but is the incentive to progress.” — Herbert Hoover“Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.” — Grover Cleveland

“A people that values its privileges before its principles soon loses both.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower (This applies if you consider health care a privilege and not a right in the wealthiest nation on earth.)


“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” — James Buchanan (Head Start, public schools, public libraries and Pell Grants reflect this idea.)“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” — John F. Kennedy (Unfortunately, they are usually made to happen by lobbyists. All politicians are guilty of submitting to their influence.)


“The dangers of the concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded.” — Franklin Pierce“Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.” — John Tyler

(I would add: hedge-funds and investment banking; hostile takeovers; lay-offs; being a career politician; lobbying; and passing wealth from generation to generation.)

Tea Party Republicans and Libertarians:

“The extravagant expenditure of public money is an evil not to be measured by the value of that money to the people who are taxed for it.” — Chester A. Arthur


“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — George Washington“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” — Woodrow Wilson

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials but the voters of this country.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A mythical future:

“He serves his party best who serves his country best.” — Rutherford B. Hayes(That goes for Democrats and Republicans. An independent, non-partisan investigation into the Russian hacking of our democratic process would serve our country well.)

Donna Steele of Greenfield is a member of a variety of community organizations aimed at bettering the city, including Greenfield Main Street and the Greenfield Coalition. Send comments to