During times of crisis, U.S. presidents have always offered words of inspiration, and fortitude ensuring that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty,” President John F. Kennedy declared at his inauguration.
Here are some lesser known but powerful words, nonetheless.
“We always seek peaceful avenues before resorting to the use of force — and we did. . . . Despite our repeated warnings, Moammar Gadhafi continued his reckless policy of intimidation, his relentless pursuit of terror. He counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong.” — Ronald Reagan in 1986 after bombing Libya
“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear, and obstacles vanish into air.” ― John Quincy Adams (1767–1848)
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring war on Japan in 1941
“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight- it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower (okay, you’ve heard this one before, but it’s too good to pass up.)
In July 1979, President Jimmy Carter did something extraordinary. Preparing to give a speech to the American people about energy goals, he changed his mind and chose to talk about something more vital.
“It’s clear that the true problems of our nation are much deeper; deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession…. as President I need your help. So, I decided to reach out and to listen to the voices of America. …
“This from a southern governor: ‘Mr. President, you are not leading this nation — you’re just managing the government.’
‘You don’t see the people enough anymore.’
‘Don’t talk to us about politics or the mechanics of government, but about an understanding of our common good.’
‘Mr. President, we’re in trouble. Talk to us about blood and sweat and tears.’
‘I feel so far from government. I feel like ordinary people are excluded from political power.’
‘Some of us have suffered from recession all our lives.’
‘I like this one particularly from a black woman who happens to be the mayor of a small Mississippi town: “The big shots are not the only ones who are important. Remember, you can’t sell anything on Wall Street unless someone digs it up somewhere else first.”
“This kind of summarized a lot of other statements,” Carter said. ‘Mr. President, we are confronted with a moral and a spiritual crisis.’
While Carter didn’t always succeed, he listened to Americans of all faiths, races and backgrounds.