Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Harry S. Truman

33rd President of the United States

"Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix."

"The release of atomic energy constitutes a new force too revolutionary to consider in the framework of old ideas."

"Men make history and not the other way round. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."

"I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it."

"In the cause of freedom, we have to battle for the rights of people with whom we do not agree; and whom, in many cases, we may not like. These people test the strength of the freedoms which protect all of us. If we do not defend their rights, we endanger our own."

"The President is the representative of the whole nation and he's the only lobbyist that all the 160 million people in this country have."

"The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred."

"I never give them hell; I just tell them the truth and they think it is hell."

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

"We can never tell what is in store for us."

"When you have an efficient government, you have a dictatorship."

"I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if He had taken a poll in the land of Israel?"

"The strength of our Nation must continue to be used in the interest of all our people rather than a privileged few. It must continue to be used unselfishly in the struggle for world peace and the betterment of mankind."

"You know what makes leadership? It is the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do and like it."

"Democracy is based on the conviction that people have the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right to govern themselves with reason and justice."

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."

"The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all."

"Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice."

"We need not fear the expression of ideas-we do need to fear their suppression."

"If you can't convince them, confuse them. "

"Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything. "

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. "

"In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first. "

"The buck stops here! "

"Upon books the collective education of the race depends; they are the sole instruments of registering, perpetuating and transmitting thought. "

"When even one American - who has done nothing wrong - is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth - then all Americans are in peril. "

"The reward of suffering is experience. "

"You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don't believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can't possibly foresee now. "

"We shall never be able to remove suspicion and fear as potential causes of war until communication is permitted to flow, free and open, across international boundaries. "

"A bureaucrat is a Democrat who holds some office that a Republican wants."

"A man cannot have character unless he lives within a fundamental system of morals that creates character."

"A leader has to lead, or otherwise he has no business in politics."

"A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you been drinkin’ jack and coke all morning. She can make you feel high, for the single greatest commodity known to man - promise. Promise of a better day, promise of a greater hope, promise of a new tomorrow. this particular aura, can be found in the gait of a beautiful girl, in her smile, in her soul, and the way she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it's gonna be okay."

"A man who is not interested in politics is not doing his patriotic duty toward maintaining the constitution of the United States."

"A leader in the Democratic Party is a boss, in the Republican Party he is a leader."

"A good politician has had to be 75 percent ability and 25 percent actor, but I can well see the day when the reverse could be true."

"A person who is fundamentally honest doesn't need a code of ethics. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are all the ethical code anybody needs."

"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties"

"A politician is a man who understands government and it takes a politician to run a government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead for fifteen years."

"A President cannot always be popular."

"A President needs political understanding to run the government, but he may be elected without it."

"A statesman is a politician who's been dead 10 or 15 years."

"A President either is constantly on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him. I never felt that I could let up for a single moment."

"A recession is when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own."

"Adlai Stevenson was a man who could never make up his mind whether he had to go to the bathroom or not."

"All my life I have fought against prejudice and intolerance."

"All my life, whenever it comes time to make a decision, I make it and forget about it"

"Actions are the seed of fate deeds grow into destiny."

"About the meanest thing you can say about a man is that he means well."

"All of you, I am sure, have heard many cries about Government interference with business and about "creeping socialism." I should like to remind the gentlemen who make these complaints that if events had been allowed to continue as they were going prior to March 4, 1933, most of them would have no businesses left for the Government or for anyone else to interfere with — and almost surely we would have socialism in this country, real socialism."