Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Harry S. Truman

33rd President of the United States

"It s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it s a depression when you lose yours."

"It sure is hell to be president."

"It seems like there was always somebody for supper."

"It takes a politician to run a government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead for fifteen years."

"It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job: it’s a depression when you lose yours."

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

"It's plain hokum. If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em. It's an old political trick. But this time it won't work."

"I've had a few setbacks in my life, but I never gave up"

"I've said many a time that I think the Un-American Activities Committee in the House of Representatives was the most un-American thing in America!"

"It's not the hand that signs the laws that holds the destiny of America. It's the hand that casts the ballot."

"I've seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn't believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don't want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign."

"Justice remains the greatest power on earth. To that tremendous power alone will we submit."

"Means of destruction hitherto unknown, against which there can be no adequate military defense, and in the employment of which no single nation can in fact have a monopoly."

"Men don't change. The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know."

"Leadership is the art to have people do something they dislike, and have them enjoy it."

"Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection."

"Mama and Papa are more to blame (for delinquency) than the kids; parents should stay home and raise their children and spend less time in taverns."

"Most of the problems a President has to face have their roots in the past."

"Mr. Luce, you've asked a fair question and I'll give you a fair answer. I've been in politics thirty-five years and everything that could be said about a human being has been said about me. But my wife has never been in politics. She has always conducted herself in a circumspect manner and no one has a right to make derogatory remarks about here. Now your wife has said many unkind and untrue things about Mrs. Truman. And as long as I am in residence here, she'll not be a guest in the White House."

"Men often mistake notoriety for fame, and would rather be remembered for their vices and follies than not to be noticed at all."

"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, and fellow citizens, I accept with humility the honor which the American people have conferred upon me. I accept it with a deep resolve to do all that I can for the welfare of this Nation and for the peace of the world. In performing the duties of my office, I need the help and prayers of every one of you. I ask for your encouragement and your support. The tasks we face are difficult, and we can accomplish them only if we work together. Each period of our national history has had its special challenges. Those that confront us now are as momentous as any in the past. Today marks the beginning not only of a new administration, but of a period that will be eventful, perhaps decisive, for us and for the world. It may be our lot to experience, and in large measure to bring about, a major turning point in the long history of the human race. The first half of this century has been marked by unprecedented and brutal attacks on the rights of man, and by the two most frightful wars in history. The supreme need of our time is for men to learn to live together in peace and harmony. The peoples of the earth face the future with grave uncertainty, composed almost equally of great hopes and great fears. In this time of doubt, they look to the United States as never before for good will, strength, and wise leadership. It is fitting, therefore, that we take this occasion to proclaim to the world the essential principles of the faith by which we live, and to declare our aims to all peoples. The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this Nation from the beginning. We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. We believe that all men have the right to freedom of thought and expression. We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God."

"My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference."

"My definition of a leader… is a man who can persuade people to do what they don't want to do, or do what they're too lazy to do, and like it."

"My favorite animal is the mule. He has more sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eating — and when to stop working."

"Never, never waste a minute on regret. It's a waste of time."

"Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day."

"My father was not a failure. After all, he was the father of a president of the United States."

"Nixon is a shifty-eyed goddamn liar…He's one of the few in the history of this country to run for high office talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time and lying out of both sides"

"No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected."

"Nixon is one of the few in the history of this country to run for high office talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time and lying out of both sides."

"No nation on this globe should be more internationally minded than America because it was built by all nations."

"No one who has not had the responsibility can really understand what it is like to be President, not even his closest aides or members of his immediate family. There is no end to the chain of responsibility that binds him, and he is never allowed to forget that he is President."

"Nothing but a damn bunch of bullshit! [On General Douglas MacArthur's "Old Soldiers Never Die" speech]"

"Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers."

"Of course, there are dangers in religious freedom and freedom of opinion. But to deny these rights is worse than dangerous, it is absolutely fatal to liberty. The external threat to liberty should not drive us into suppressing liberty at home. Those who want the Government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide to avoid assassination. All freedom-loving nations, not the United States alone, are facing a stern challenge from the Communist tyranny. In the circumstances, alarm is justified. The man who isn't alarmed simply doesn't understand the situation — or he is crazy. But alarm is one thing, and hysteria is another. Hysteria impels people to destroy the very thing they are struggling to preserve. Invasion and conquest by Communist armies would be a horror beyond our capacity to imagine. But invasion and conquest by Communist ideas of right and wrong would be just as bad. For us to embrace the methods and morals of communism in order to defeat Communist aggression would be a moral disaster worse than any physical catastrophe. If that should come to pass, then the Constitution and the Declaration would be utterly dead and what we are doing today would be the gloomiest burial in the history of the world."

"On the one hand, the Republicans are telling industrial workers that the high cost of food in the cities is due to this government's farm policy. On the other hand, the Republicans are telling the farmers that the high cost of manufactured goods on the farm is due to this government's labor policy. That's plain hokum. It's an old political trick: "If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em." But this time it won't work."

"On leaving the White House: If I'd known how much packing I'd have to do, I'd have run again."

"On the 22nd Amendment: They couldn't include me in it because I was the President, and I can be elected as often as I want to be. I'm going to run again when I'm ninety. I've announced that a time or two, and you know, some damn fool looked the situation over and said, "When you're ninety, it's an off year," so I can't even run then. I didn't know I was going to stir up all that trouble . . ."

"Now days battles are just sort of a "You shoot up my town and I'll shoot up yours." They say that Americans don't play fair. They shoot 'em up all the time. I hope so because I want to finish this job as soon as possible and begin making an honest living again."

"Now they accuse me of going up and down the Nation on a whistle-stop train, and the slogans that they hurl at me most of the time are ‘‘Give ’em hell, Harry.’’ That reputation I did not earn. All I do is to tell them [the Republicans] the truth, and that hurts a lot worse than giving them hell."

"Once a decision was made I did not worry about it afterward"

"On tight money: It reflects a reversion to the old idea that the tree can be fertilized at the top instead of at the bottom — the old trickle-down theory."

"Our conference in 1945 did much more than draft an international agreement among 50 nations. We set down on paper the only principles which will enable civilized human life to continue to survive on this globe."

"Our religious faith gives us the answer to the false beliefs of Communism... I have the feeling that God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose."

"Our victory in Europe was more than a victory of arms. It was a victory of one way of life over another. It was a victory of an ideal founded on the rights of the common man, on the dignity of the human being, on the conception of the State as the servant — and not the master — of its people. A free people showed that it was able to defeat professional soldiers whose only moral arms were obedience and the worship of force. We tell ourselves that we have emerged from this war the most powerful nation in the world — the most powerful nation, perhaps, in all history. That is true, but not in the sense some of us believe it to be true. The war has shown us that we have tremendous resources to make all the materials for war. It has shown us that we have skillful workers and managers and able generals, and a brave people capable of bearing arms. All these things we knew before. The new thing — the thing which we had not known — the thing we have learned now and should never forget, is this: that a society of self-governing men is more powerful, more enduring, more creative than any other kind of society, however disciplined, however centralized."

"Republicans don’t like people who talk about depressions. You can hardly blame them for that. You remember the old saying: Don’t talk about rope in the house where somebody has been hanged."

"Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home--but not for housing. They are strong for labor--but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor minimum wage--the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all--but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine--for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing--but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it."

"Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it — don't forget that! We will do that because they are wrong and we are right, and I will prove it to you in just a few minutes."

"Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd lie just to keep his hand in."

"Selfishness and greed, individual or national, cause most of our troubles."