Politicians, political leaders, or political figures (from Classical Greek πόλις, "polis") are people who are involved in influencing public policy and decision making on behalf of other peoples. This includes people who hold decision-making positions in government, and people who seek those positions, whether by means of election, inheritance, coup d'état, appointment, conquest, or other means. Politics is not limited to governance through public office. Political offices may also be held in corporations. In civil uprisings, politicians may be called freedom fighters. In media campaigns, politicians are often referred to as activists.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- Some of the politicians in this country, in their feverish search for group acceptance, are ready to endorse tumultuous confrontation as a substitute for debate, and the most illogical and unfitting extensions of the Bill of Rights as protections for psychotic and criminal elements in our society…. We have seen all too clearly that there are men—now in power in this country—who do not represent authority, who cannot cope with tradition, and who believe that the people of America are ready to support revolution as long as it is done with a cultured voice and a handsome profile.
- Spiro T. Agnew, address to the American Retail Federation, Washington, D.C. (May 4, 1970); reported in John R. Coyne, Jr., The Impudent Snobs (1972), p. 324.
- [Recipe for political success:] If a politician during a campaign finds it necessary to resort to flattery, he should spread it on, not in thin layers, but with a trowel, or better yet, a shovel. Politicians should not forget that voters never grow weary of illusory promises. Politicians should ever remember that the electorate suspects and distrusts men of superb intellect, calmness, and serenity. And, finally, the politician must always tell people what they want to hear.
- Attributed to Senator Henry Fountain Ashurst; in John Rustgard, The Problem of Poverty, 2d ed. (1936), p. 211–12.
- I would he were better, I would he were worse.
- Attributed to Senator Joseph Weldon Bailey. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). Said to have been applied to President Theodore Roosevelt during debate on the Railroad Rate Bill of 1906.
- If this law passes I’m going to make you guys forget about Mike Duffy, because I’ve got more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at, I promise.
- Politicians hide themselves away
They oly started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor.
- Wars are fought by teenagers, you realize that. They really ought to be fought by the politicians and old people who start these wars.
- Our society is run by a managerial bureaucracy, by professional politicians; people are motivated by mass suggestion, their aim is producing more and consuming more, as purposes in themselves.
- Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1956}.
G - L
- We learned that Tim Geithner, Barack Obama's top economics guy, vetoed any suggestion that the Irish Government might demand that bank bondholders pay some of their own gambling debts.Some weeks later, face to face with Obama, Enda Kenny chickened out of raising that matter. Face to face with Geithner, Michael Noonan also chickened out. We learned, in short, that Irish politicians are tough when they're taking money away from blind people.
- Gene Kerrigan, "Austerity doesn't work? No problem." Sunday Independent, December 18 2011.
- Ethics is as crucial to a politician as it is to a religious practitioner. Dangerous consequences will follow when politicians and rulers forget moral principles. Whether we believe in God or karma, ethics is the foundation of every religion.
- The politician — oh, Job ! the devil should have made you prime minister — set the Tories to impeach your religion, the Whigs your patriotism — placed a couple of Sunday newspapers before you — he certainly would have succeeded in making you curse and swear too ; and then posterity — it will just be a mooted point for future historians, whether you were the saviour, the betrayer, or the tyrant of your country, those being the three choice epitaphs kept for the especial use of patriots in power.
- Senator [Stephen] Douglas is of world-wide renown. All the anxious politicians of his party, or who have been of his party for years past, have been looking upon him as certainly, at no distant day, to be the President of the United States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face, postoffices, landoffices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments, chargeships and foreign missions, bursting and sprouting out in wonderful exuberance ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands.
- Abraham Lincoln, speech at Springfield, Illinois (July 17, 1858); Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 506 (1953).
M - R
- The politicians pontificate and manoeuvre with eloquent manifestos and pronouncements saying little about the challenges we must confront.
- It may be, sir, that the politicians of the United States are not so fastidious as some gentlemen are, as to disclosing the principles on which they act. They boldly preach what they practise. When they are contending for victory, they avow their intention of enjoying the fruits of it. If they are defeated, they expect to retire from office. If they are successful, they claim, as a matter of right, the advantages of success. They see nothing wrong in the rule, that to the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.
- William Learned Marcy, remarks in the Senate (January 25, 1832), Register of Debates in Congress, vol. 8, col. 1325. Marcy was defending Martin Van Buren, nominated as minister to England, against the attacks of Senator Henry Clay.
- There is no such thing as a nonpolitical speech by a politician.
- Richard Nixon, address to Radio-Television Executives Society, New York City (September 14, 1955), as reported by The Christian Science Monitor (September 15, 1955), p. 6. This is not in the press release of the speech.
- None [of the guardians] should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary. ... They will live together like soldiers in a camp. We will tell them that they have gold and silver of a divine sort in their souls as a permanent gift from the gods, and have no need of human gold in addition. And we will add that it is impious for the to defile this divine possession by possessing an admixture of mortal gold, because many impious deeds have been done for the sake of the currency of the masses, whereas their sort is pure.
- Plato, The Republic, 416d, C. Reeve, trans. (2004)
- If they acquire private land, houses, and money themselves, they will be household managers and farmers instead of guardians—hostile masters of the other citizens, instead of their allies. They will spend their whole lives hating and being hated, plotting and being plotted against, much more afraid of internal than of external enemies.
- Plato, The Republic, 417a, C. Reeve, trans. (2004)
- Superman: I’m here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.
- Lois Lane: You’re gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country!
- Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton Superman (1978 film)
- He has been called a mediocre man; but this is unwarranted flattery. He was a politician of monumental littleness.
- Theodore Roosevelt, writing of John Tyler, Thomas Hart Benton, chapter 11, p. 239 (1897, reprinted 1968).
- So far as one can generalize, the most graciouis, cultivated, and innovative people in this country are French Canadians. Certainly they have given us the most exciting politicians of our time: Trudeau, Lévesque. Without them, Canada would be an exceedingly boring and greatly diminished place.
- Mordecai Richler, Reported in Donald Smith, D'une nation à l'autre: des deux solitudes à la cohabitation (Montreal: Éditions Alain Stanké, 1997), p. 61.
S - Z
- I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.
- Attributed to Socrates, but reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) as unverified in his writings or in interpretive writings about him. Possibly this is an interpretation of a passage from Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates (The Apology), trans. F. J. Church, p. 61 (1880, reprinted 1972): "I do not venture to come forward in the assembly, and take part in public councils…. For, Athenians, it is quite certain that if I had attempted to take part in politics, I should have perished at once and long ago, without doing any good either to you or to myself. And do not be vexed with me for telling the truth".
- When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.
- Thomas Sowell, "Don’t Get Weak", National Review, May 1, 2007.
- He gave it for his opinion, that whosoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.
- I'm proud that I'm a politician. 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 10 or 15 years.
- Harry S. Truman, impromptu remarks before the Reciprocity Club, Washington, D.C. (April 11, 1958), as reported by the New York World-Telegram and Sun (April 12, 1958), p. 4.
- I think politicians and movie actors and movie executives are similar in more ways than they're different. There is an egocentric quality about both; there is a very sensitive awareness of the public attitude, because you live or die on public favor or disfavor. There is the desire for publicity and for acclaim, because, again, that's part of your life…. And in a strange and bizarre way, when movie actors come to Washington, they're absolutely fascinated by the politicians. And when the politicians go to Hollywood, they're absolutely fascinated by the movie stars. It's a kind of reciprocity of affection by people who both recognize in a sense they're in the same racket.
- Jack Valenti, special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, interview on National Public Radio (December 13, 1974); excerpt printed in The Washingtonian (March 1975), p. 162.
- I'm not a politician and my other habits are good. I've no enemys to reward, nor friends to sponge. But I'm a Union man.
- Artemus Ward, Fourth of July oration delivered at Weathersfield, Connecticut (July 4, 1859); in The Complete Works of Artemus Ward (1898), p. 175–76. According to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th ed. (1980), p. 616, footnote 2, the first sentence was a favorite quotation of John F. Kennedy's.
Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations, (1989)
- Man is by nature a political animal.
- Aristotle, Politics, book 1, chapter 2.—Aristotle's Politics and Poetics, trans. Benjamin Jowett and Thomas Twining, p. 5 (1957). Jowett translated Politics. This statement appears again in book 3, chapter 6, p. 68.
- POLITICIAN, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1948), p. 259. Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
- [Trying to obtain information from Mr. Mitchell was] Like trying to nail a drop of water to the wall.
- George E. Danielson, remark referring to former Attorney General John N. Mitchell's testimony during the Watergate hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., July 10, 1974.—The New York Times, July 11, 1974, p. 14.
- A garden, you know, is a very usual refuge of a disappointed politician. Accordingly, I have purchased a few acres about nine miles from town, have built a house, and am cultivating a garden.
- Alexander Hamilton, letter to Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, December 29, 1802.—The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. John C. Hamilton, vol. 6, p. 551 (1851).
- I don't believe in labels. I want to do the best I can, all the time. I want to be progressive without getting both feet off the ground at the same time. I want to be prudent without having my mind closed to anything that is new or different. I have often said that I was proud that I was a free man first and an American second, and a public servant third and a Democrat fourth, in that order, and I guess as a Democrat, if I had to take—place a label on myself, I would want to be a progressive who is prudent.
- Lyndon B. Johnson, television and radio interview, March 15, 1964. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, book 1, p. 368.
- "Don't teach my boy poetry", an English mother recently wrote the Provost of Harrow. "Don't teach my boy poetry; he is going to stand for Parliament". Well, perhaps she was right—but if more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place to live on this Commencement Day of 1956.
- John F. Kennedy, address to the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 14, 1956.—Text, p. 11–12.
- [Politicians] are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
- Nikita Khrushchev, impromptu remark made during a visit to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, August 21, 1963, as reported by the New York Herald Tribune, August 22, 1963, p. 16.
- I once said cynically of a politician, "He'll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it".
- Oscar Levant, The Memoirs of an Amnesiac, p. 13 (1965).
- You have to pursue the ideals of a Joan of Arc with the political prowess of an Adam Clayton Powell. Whatever you say about Joan, her purpose was noble. And whatever you say about Adam, his politics is effective; it gets things done he wants done.
- Bill D. Moyers, remarks, conference on the returned Peace Corps volunteer, Washington, D.C., March 5–7, 1965.—Citizen in a Time of Change: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Report of the Conference, p. 69 (1965).
- In my youth, I, too, entertained some illusions; but I soon recovered from them. The great orators who rule the assemblies by the brilliancy of their eloquence are in general men of the most mediocre political talents: they should not be opposed in their own way; for they have always more noisy words at command than you. Their eloquence should be opposed by a serious and logical argument; their strength lies in vagueness; they should be brought back to the reality of facts; practical arguments destroy them. In the council, there were men possessed of much more eloquence than I was: I always defeated them by this simple argument—two and two make four.
- Napoleon, dictated to Count Montholon to be passed on to Napoleon's son.—Charles-Tristan de Montholon, History of the Captivity of Napoleon at St. Helena, vol. 3, p. 187 (1847).
- I'd rather keep my promises to other politicians than to God. God, at least, has a degree of forgiveness.
- Author unknown; reported in The Washington Post (June 9, 1978), p. C1, quoting a "veteran Virginia Democrat".