James George Janos (born 15 July 1951), usually known as Jesse Ventura, is an American politician and actor, a US Navy UDT veteran, retired professional wrestler, radio and television talk show host, and teacher, who became the 38th Governor of Minnesota.
- I believe in the separation of church and state... We all have our own religious beliefs. There are people out there who are atheists, who don't believe at all... They are all citizens of Minnesota and I have to respect that.
- Explaining his refusal to sign a "National Day of Prayer" proclamation (6 May 1999)
- We call our country home of the brave and land of the free, but it's not. We give a false portrayal of freedom. We're not free — if we were, we'd allow people their freedom. Prohibiting something doesn't make it go away. Prostitution is criminal, and bad things happen because it's run illegally by dirt-bags who are criminals. If it's legal, then the girls could have health checks, unions, benefits, anything any other worker gets, and it would be far better.
- Interview in Playboy (November 1999)
- Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you'd want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live.
- Interview in Playboy (November 1999)
- Every fat person says it's not their fault, that they have gland trouble. You know which gland? The saliva gland. They can't push away from the table.
- Interview in Playboy (November 1999)
- If I could be reincarnated as a fabric, I would come back as a 38 double-D bra.
- Interview in Playboy (November 1999)
- I speak my mind. If it offends some people, well, there's not much I can do about that. But I'm going to be honest. I'm going to continue to speak my mind, and that's who I am...
- NBC's Meet The Press (3 October 1999) responding to criticism of his remarks in Playboy magazine.
- Congratulations, you have a sense of humor. And to those who didn't: Go stick your head in the mud.
- Speaking in a news conference to reporters, where a few were wearing the "Official Jackal" security passes that he had issued. (23 February 2001)
- I asked him the most important question that I think you could ask — if he had ever seen Caddyshack.
- I believe patriotism comes from the heart. Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice.
Chapter 391 is not about choice. In Chapter 391, the State mandates patriotic actions and displays. Our government should not dictate actions. The United States of America exists because people wanted to be free to choose. All of us should have free choice when it comes to patriotic displays... a government wisely acting within its bounds will earn loyalty and respect from its citizens. A government dare not demand the same.
There is much more to being a patriot and a citizen than reciting the pledge or raising a flag. Patriots serve. Patriots vote. Patriots attend meetings in their community. Patriots pay attention to the actions of government and speak out when needed. Patriots teach their children about our history, our precious democracy and about citizenship. Being an active, engaged citizen means being a patriotic American every day. No law will make a citizen a patriot.
- I feel used. I feel violated and duped over the fact that that turned into nothing more than a political rally.
- After leaving a memorial ceremony for Democratic US Senator Paul Wellstone. (30 October 2002)
- The current use of the National Guard is wrong... These are men who did not sign up to go occupy foreign nations.
I Ain't Got Time To Bleed (1999)
- Full title: I Ain't Got Time To Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up
- I didn't need this job. I ran for governor to find out if the American dream still exists in anyone's heart other than mine. I'm living proof that the myths aren't true. The candidate with the most money isn't always the one who wins. You don't have to be a career politician to serve in public office. You don't have to be well-connected. You don't even have to be a Democrat or a Republican. You can stand on your own two feet and speak your mind, because if people like where you're coming from, they will vote you in. The will of the people is still the most powerful force in our government.
- Politics is not my life. I have a career in radio and another career in film. I have a wife who is the sweetest person in the world and two kids who are growing up into terrific, well-rounded people. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in politics. When I'm finished with my term as governor, I'm going back to the life that's waiting for me in the private sector.
- During my transition period, I brought in 13 people who were either first-time voters or who hadn't voted in five consecutive elections. I asked each of them a question: Now that you've come into the system, how do we keep you involved?
Their answers were very clear, very honest. They said, It's the same story every four years. Whenever an election's coming up, all the politicians come out and give you the same song and dance about the same issues, all the way up until they get elected. Then you don't hear any more from them until it's time for them to get elected again. We're tired of it. If you want to keep us involved, don't tell us what you think we want to hear, tell us the truth.
There's a great need in our government right now for honesty. I speak my mind. You might not always like what you hear, but you're gonna hear it anyway. I call it like I see it; I tell the truth. And if I don't know something, I'll say so. Then I'll try to find the answer.
- I decided to run for governor because I got mad.... I want to make government more directly accountable to the people.
- I am not a career politician. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I'm a working man with commonsense ideas and goals. I describe myself politically as fiscally conservative and socially moderate-to-liberal.
- I don't believe we need the government's help as much as some think we do. That belief sets me apart from the Democrats, since their way of dealing with everything is to tax and spend.
I also believe that government has no business telling us how we should live our lives. I think our lifestyle choices should be left up to us. What we do in our private lives is none of the government's business. That position rules out the Republican Party for me. As the cliché says, "I don't want Democrats in the boardroom and I don't want Republicans in the bedroom."
- There are a lot of good causes out there, but they can't possibly all be served by government. The Constitution guarantees us our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That's all. It doesn't guarantee our rights to charity.
The government is not a parent. We can't expect the government to always be there, ready to bail us out. When we make decisions in life, we have to be willing to live with the consequences. We can't expect the government to help us get back on our feet every time we make a bad decision.
- We've gotten into the bad habit of overlegislating. I believe in the America people's ability to govern themselves. If government would just get out of the way and allow them to lead their lives as they choose, they will succeed.
- Remember that government doesn't earn one single dollar it spends. In order for you to get money from the government, that money must first be taken from somebody else.
- Government works less efficiently when it begins to grow out of control and takes on more and more of the responsibilities that belong to the citizens.
- Develop high expectations.
- There's hardly a more effective way to solve the problems we face in our educational system than to reduce class size. A ratio of no more than 17 students per teacher ensures more 1-on-1 contact, better classroom discipline, you name it.
- The best chance disabled students have for productive adult lives comes from being mainstreamed among other students. My daughter Jade is living proof of that. She has a disability, but we have made sure that she has gotten the same kind of exposure as other kids her age. There are a few exceptions; there are students whose special needs are such that mainstreaming won't work for them. But in the majority of cases, mainstreaming should be supported, encouraged, and facilitated for disabled students.
- Students often approached me about state-paid tuition while I was out campaigning. After I explained to them that if the state pays their tuition now, they will pay higher taxes to pay other people's tuition for the rest of their lives, most of them ended up agreeing with me.
- Government's role should be only to keep the playing field level, and to work hand in hand with business on issues such as employment. But beyond this, to as great an extent as possible, it should get the hell out of the way.
- I'm against the draft. I believe we should have a professional military; it might be smaller, but it would be more effective.
- People are always shocked when they ask me what I plan to do about crime as governor and my answer comes back as "Nothing!" Does the issue of crime need to be addressed? You bet it does. But, just as with many other social issues, I don't think that legislation is the most effective arena in which to fight crime. We already have tons of laws on the books. Most of those laws would work more effectively if we just enforced them better.
As governor, there isn't a lot I can do beyond that to crack down on crime. Law enforcement is really a local issue. It's the cops' job to tighten down on criminals.
Politicians always like to say "I'm gonna fight crime!" because it makes them sound great and gets them votes. But what can a politician do to fight crime?
- How come life in prison doesn't mean life? Until it does, we're not ready to do away with the death penalty. Stop thinking in terms of "punishment" for a minute and think in terms of safeguarding innocent people from incorrigible murderers. Americans have a right to go about their lives without worrying about these people being back out on the street. So until we can make sure they're off the street permanently, we have to grit our teeth and put up with the death penalty. So we need to work toward making a life sentence meaningful again. If life meant life, I could, if you'll excuse the pun, live without the death penalty.
We don't have it here in Minnesota, thank God, and I won't advocate to get it. But I will advocate to make life in prison mean life. I don't think I would want the responsibility for enforcing the death penalties. There's always the inevitable question of whether someone you gave the order to execute might truly have been innocent.
- There's no question that we need tougher drunk-driving laws for repeat offenders. We need to take a lesson from European countries where driving isn't a right but a privilege. There isn't a person on this planet by this time who doesn't know that when you consume alcohol you shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car. The people who do it anyway should have their privilege to drive taken away.
- Our government has the weirdest bias against cannabis. There's no reason for everybody to be so afraid of it. It's not the antichrist the DEA makes it out to be. Industrial hemp is a very useful plant. I challenged the attorney general to get rid of the criminal stigma associated with hemp so we can look at it in terms of how it might be useful. And government has no business telling us what we can and can't use for pain relief.
- We shouldn't be wasting so much time and so many resources on prosecuting consensual crimes such as prostitution and drug possession. I hold drug possession and drug dealing as two totally different concepts. The drug dealers who resort to deadly street violence should be dealt with severely as the criminals they are.
But we have to become willing to admit as a nation that our war against drugs has failed. And we have to start looking for other solutions. I want the drug business stopped. But I know it never will stop as long as people want the drugs. It's supply and demand. You can even get drugs in prison.
- I'm all for gun control, I just define it a little differently. If you can put 2 rounds into the same hole from 25 meters, that's gun control! If you're going to own a gun, you have an obligation to know what you're doing with it. When the Constitution gave us the right to bear arms, it also made us responsible for using them properly. It's not fair of us as citizens to lean more heavily on one side of that equation than on the other.
So I support waiting periods and training requirements for gun ownership, and I like the idea that it shouldn't be incredibly easy to get guns. I support the right to carry concealed weapons, but I think people who want a concealed-weapons permit need to pass a training and safety course. The Constitution calls for a "well-regulated militia." In other words, you need to know how to use your weapon, and practice with it.
Where I draw the line is at gun registration. A law that says that everybody who owns a gun has to be on record is too easy to abuse.
- I don't support abortion. I could never participate in one. But I think it would be a mistake to make them illegal again. What criminalization will do is force women into garages and back alleys, and then you're going to have two lives in jeopardy. My mom, who was a nurse, used to talk about the messes that would come in after back-alley abortions went wrong. The way to stop abortion is to deal, philosophically and spiritually, with the people who get them. And that's not something government can touch.
- I get very disturbed when I see people demonstrating with signs that say "Welfare Rights." There is nothing in the Constitution that says you have a right to welfare! Do you know what welfare is? It's taking money from someone who is working to give to someone who's not!
- A Navy SEAL will defy death at least twice a week. When you get that kind of familiarity with death, barriers go down, and anything else seems insignificant.
I don't like what happened in the navy's Tailhook scandal; I think what those officers did was wrong. But I understand why it happened. When you get a force of that many hundreds of warriors together, there's bound to be trouble.
- War isn't civilized. War is failure. It's the ultimate result of a breakdown in public policy, and soldiers are the machines that handle that breakdown. In warfare, you're taught to do whatever you have to, to stay alive.
- Even while I was a Navy SEAL, I participated in the 1970s peace movement. I marched at peace rallies. I admit it wasn't so much because of my great love of peace as it was because of my great love of female companionship. To the women in the movement, I was the poor beleaguered victim of the system, sent off against his will to fight this horrible war. They didn't realize that the navy had no draft!
- To this day, I'm against the draft. I believe the military is much stronger if it's an all-volunteer organization.
- I believe very strongly that guns are instruments of death. That's all they're used for; there's no purpose for them other than to kill. I think you have to understand that in order to respect them. I have no fear of my teenage son handling weapons, because he has that respect.
- I'm not knocking private schools, but I owe it to my kids to let them grow up in a place where private school isn't required. They're only in school 6-8 hours a day; they have to live in their neighborhood 24 hours a day. I didn't want them growing up in a place where anybody with the means had abandoned their public schools.
- I believe I was destined to become mayor of Brooklyn Park. And maybe, by fulfilling that destiny to become mayor, I sealed my destiny to become governor. I hope I'm not destined to become president. I don't say that with arrogance — it's only that everything seemed to fall so easily into place in both of my other races. But I truly wanted to be mayor and governor — I don't want the presidency. I'll never say never, because you never know what will happen. But 99% of me says no.
- While I was mayor, I learned that government is a system of checks and balances — you can't simply walk in and change things. It takes time. I used to joke that it would be nice if a magic wand came with the job, if I could just wave it and make things work the way they're supposed to. But unfortunately it's not that easy. The bureaucracy is so huge that in a lot of situations all I can do is tell people the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
- Whenever you take a stand on an issue, people will line up around the block to kick your ass over it. By having an opinion, you make yourself a target. Why do you think Congress likes to hide behind closed doors at decision-making time?
I put all the city council meetings on public TV, over the good old boys' objections. Exposure creates an educated, involved public, which isn't in the interests of the old-boy network.
- I view the traditional two parties as in some ways very evil. They've become monsters that are out of control. The two parties don't have in mind what's best for Minnesota. The only things that are important to them are their own agendas and their pork. Government's become just a battle of power between the two parties. But now that Minnesota has a governor who truly comes from the private sector, a lot of light's going to be shed on how the system is unfair to people outside the two parties.
- Don't look for me to make a run for the White House. I don't want that. I see what happens to everyone who takes that office: They all go in so virile and young, and then in the course of 4 years they age 20. I can get by being governor, but being president would be too much stress, too much responsibility — I'd be the most powerful person in the world! And I don't want to do that to Terry. I won't say absolutely not, but I wouldn't put any money on there ever being a Jesse "The Prez" Ventura.
- Over the past few decades, we've gotten into the bad habit of looking to the government to solve every personal and social crisis that comes along. People have really come to misunderstand government's scope. There's only so much it can do. For one thing, it's a terrible social regulator. And morals and values aren't things that legislation can even touch. You can't legislate morality. It doesn't work.
- I'd like to clarify my comments about religious people being weak-minded. I didn't mean all religious people. I don't have any problem with the vast majority of religious folks. I count myself among them, more or less. But I believe because it makes sense to me, not because I think it can be proven. There are lots of people out there who think they know the truth about God and religion, but does anybody really know for sure? That's why the founding fathers built freedom of religious belief into the structure of this nation, so that everybody could make up their minds for themselves.
But I do have a problem with the people who think they have some right to try to impose their beliefs on others. I hate what the fundamentalist fanatics are doing to our country. It seems as though, if everybody doesn't accept their version of reality, that somehow invalidates it for them. Everybody must believe the same things they do. That's what I find weak and destructive.
- I'm not disparaging suicides when I call them weak, I'm pointing out that anybody who would consider doing a thing like that needs help. I don't think a normal, mentally healthy person commits suicide. Of course, there are exceptions; people who are terminally ill are a different issue. But in the vast majority of cases, suicide is a tragedy that does unbelievable damage to the family and friends the suicide leaves behind. You don't want to encourage people to do such a thing.
- I'd like to work on having every fourth year become a year in which no laws are made, but the old laws are reviewed, updated, or deleted as needed. That way we won't get endless, obsolete laws piling up on the books.
Indivisible Day Proclamation (2002)
- Whereas: The unique features of this nation at its foundation was its establishment of a secular Constitution that separated government from religion — something never done before; and
Whereas: Our secular constitution has enabled people of all world views to coexist in harmony, undivided by sectarian strife; and
Whereas: President James Madison made clear the importance of maintaining this harmony when he said, "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the endless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries"; and
Whereas: The diversity of our people requires mutual respect and equal protection for all our citizens, including minority groups, if we are to remain "One nation, indivisible"; and
Whereas: It is the unfettered diversity of ideas and world views that have made our nation the strongest and most productive in the world; and
Whereas: Eternal vigilance must be maintained to guard against those who seek to stifle ideas, establish a narrow orthodoxy, and divide our nation along arbitrary lines of race, ethnicity, and religious belief or non-belief.
Now Therefore, I, Jesse Ventura, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim that Thursday July 4, 2002 shall be observed as: Indivisible Day In the State of Minnesota.
Harvard interview (February 2004)
- "The Body politic", The Boston Globe (25 February 2004)
- They could care less about the public. The public comes in third. Number one is keeping their power. Number two are the special interests, the people footing the bill. Finally, the public good might be third — if they can profit from it. If there's no profit, they could care less.
- On Democrats and Republicans
- It's panhandling. . . That's the system we have, though. It's based on bribery.
- On political fund-raising
- A third-party candidate is never treated equally. They look at you as a novelty, as cannon fodder. "This is entertaining," they think, "but we'll go back to the Democrats and Republicans, because only they can run our government." Which is baloney.
- Could someone please tell me how this will affect me? Come on, this is Harvard, folks. I came all the way out here to learn this.
- On same-sex marriage.
- Some felt I'm not academically qualified, and they're right.
- On teaching at Harvard.
- I give kudos to them for having the courage to bring me here... The risk is, I'm not the status quo.
- I thought to myself, "This is Harvard", You expect Harvard to be this stuffy, arrogant place. But then you get here and see how bright everyone is — what could be better? I loved it.
- When you have an opportunity to learn, you become smarter at more things. Having run government for four years, and being in charge of 26 departments, that's an education. So I think I'm savvier today. And probably more cynical.
- Why did they label me a college dropout? The connotation is, he left to go have fun. Not that I served honorably in the Navy, went to college on the GI Bill, trained to be a pro wrestler, and took a job when the opportunity came up. Isn't that what college is for, to prepare you to earn a living? The positive is, I still have three years of eligibility left — if Harvard wants me for its football team.
- On the "stupid, lazy" media reports on his lack of a college education.
- Having been a villain in wrestling, my relationship with the media has always been rocky. They don't view wrestling for what it really is, entertainment.
- I looked at my wife and said, "You know what? If these people put their own dollar-an-hour raise above the integrity of our nation, I don't wanna be their boss anymore."
- On his reaction to Minnesota state workers going on strike.
- "Bunch a slack-jawed faggots around here. This stuff [Red Man chewing tobacco] will make you a god-damned sexual tyrannosaurus -- just like me." (from Predator)
Quotes about Ventura
- What I found most refreshing about Governor Ventura was his willingness to defend his positions and attack his interrogators. . . He's an imposing man who's not easily intimidated, and he's convinced he has the aura that will take him to higher places.
- Lawrence Grobel, interviewer for Playboy magazine.
- Can you believe a governor of a state in America would say such an insensitive, bigoted thing?
- US Senator Trent Lott, about Ventura's remarks about organized religion in Playboy magazine.
- While this may have been intended as a joke we take the matter seriously and will not subject AP staffers to wearing something that may be intended to demean them and their profession.
- David Pyle, Minnesota bureau chief for the Associated Press rejecting the use of "Official Jackal" security badges.
- His most substantial contribution to American politics is that he showed that in the right conditions and with the right strategy, you can drive an independent populist truck straight through the Potemkin village that is the party system... His legacy is that he showed that a centrist candidate with a healthy disrespect for big everything — corporations, government, media — can rally the unhappy, inchoate middle and ride that into office.
- Micah Sifry author of Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America (2002)
- He was governor of an important state and a phenomenon in American political life... It's true he's not an intellectual, but he has street smarts. Plus, Jesse is fun to be around. I have no qualms whatsoever.
- Dan Glickman, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics on hiring Ventura as a visiting fellow.