120 Richard Nixon Quotes

These 120 Richard Nixon quotes will show you how he navigated through six years in the White House while trying to balance his contradicting and complex approaches—liberalism and conservatism.

Richard Nixon’s goal was for his administration—and the country—to be iconic, momentous, and significant; and despite the challenges he faces because of the Watergate scandal, it was.

Want to find out more? Read the full list below.

Best Richard Nixon Quotes

1. “Always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty.”

2. “If I had feelings, I probably wouldn’t have even survived.”

3. “Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quitting does.”

4. “If you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black notes and the white notes together.”

5. “To write a novel, you need an iron butt.”

6. “The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.”

7. “Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a change? Do you want to get something off your chest or do you want to get something done?”

8. “The man of thought who will not act is ineffective; the man of action who will not think is dangerous.”

9. “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

10. “Tell them to send everything that can fly.”

11. “Federal and state laws should be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use.”

12. “Others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

13. “Solutions are not the answer.”

14. “I know you think you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is exactly what I meant.”

15. “I really believe life is simple. It’s all the other people that make things complicated.”

16. “Life is one crisis after another.”

17. “Greatness comes not when things go always good for you. Greatness comes when you’re really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes.”

18. “I would have made a good pope.”

19. “I can take it. The tougher it gets, the cooler I get.”

Richard Nixon Quotes on Changes and Challenges

20. “We are faced this year with the choice between the work ethic that built this nation’s character and the new welfare ethic that could cause that American character to weaken.”

21. “In your own mind, you have nothing to lose, so you take plenty of chances; and if you do your homework, many of them pay off. It is then that you understand, for the first time, that you have the advantage because your competitors can’t risk what they have already.”

22. “I was born in the house my father built.”

23. “There are some instances where you may be ahead of us. For example, in the development of the thrust of your rockets for the investigation of outer space. There may be some instances in which we are ahead of you—in color television, for instance.”

24. “The attention given them and their causes romanticize the trivial and trivialize the serious.”

25. “Faced with a clear challenge, the decision not to use one’s power must be as deliberate as the decision to use it.”

26. “One of the effects of the rapidity of change in the world today is that there can no longer be static stability; there can only be dynamic stability.”

27. “Any change is resisted because bureaucrats have a vested interest in the chaos in which they exist.”

28. “As technology has advanced in America, it has increasingly encroached on one of those liberties—what I term the right of personal privacy.”

29. “Once you learn that you’ve got to work harder than everybody else, it becomes a way of life as you move out of the alley and on your way.”

30. “We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another—until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”

31. “The greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker.”

32. “I reject the cynical view that politics is a dirty business.”

33. “You’ve got to learn to survive a defeat. That’s when you develop character.”

34. “You must never be satisfied with losing. You must get angry, terribly angry, about losing. But the mark of the good loser is that he takes his anger out on himself and not his victorious opponents or on his teammates.”

35. “Life isn’t meant to be easy. It’s hard to take being on the top—or on the bottom. I guess I’m something of a fatalist. You have to have a sense of history, I think, to survive some of these things.”

36. “It is necessary for me to establish a winning image. Therefore, I have to beat somebody.”

37. “When I grow up, I want to be an honest lawyer so things like that can’t happen.”

38. “No one can have his own way all the time, and no one is right all the time.”

39. “If we take the route of the permanent handout, the American character will itself be impoverished.”

Richard Nixon Quotes on the Presidency and Politics

40. “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

41. “I played by the rules of politics as I found them.”

42. “The average American is just like the child in the family. You give him some responsibility and he is going to amount to something. He is going to do something. If, on the other hand, you make him completely dependent and pamper him and cater to him too much, you are going to make him soft, spoiled and eventually a very weak individual.”

43. “I let the American people down.”

44. “I wouldn’t want to be a Russian leader. You’d never know when you were being taped.”

45. “The presidency has many problems, but boredom is the least of them.”

46. “This nation was torn apart in an ideological way by the war in Vietnam, as much as the Civil War tore apart the nation when Lincoln was president.”

47. “If America loses the Cold War, it will be because of the failure of its leadership class.”

48. “Nations not possessing great power can indulge in the luxury of criticism of others; those possessing it have the responsibility of decision.”

49. “The most difficult is the period of indecision—whether to fight or run away.”

50. “Military security has to rest, ultimately, on economic and political stability.”

51. “A nation or society that fails to keep pace with change is in danger of flying apart. It is important that we recognize this, but equally important that in trying to maintain dynamic stability, we remember.”

52. “Actions, which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the nation.”

53. “The nation that survives is the one that rises to meet that moment—that has the wisdom to recognize the threat and the will to turn it back, and that does so before it is too late.”

54. “One measure of a truly free society is the vigor with which it protects the liberties of its individual citizens.”

55. “Because our strengths are so great, we can afford to appraise our weaknesses with candor.”

56. “The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting.”

57. “Only if we act greatly in meeting our responsibilities abroad will we remain a great nation; and only if we remain a great nation will we act greatly in meeting our challenges at home.”

58. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

59. “The easiest period in a crisis situation is actually the battle itself.”

60. “To leave office before my term is completed is opposed to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interests of America first. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.”

61. “Certainly, in the next 50 years, we shall see a woman president, perhaps sooner than you think. A woman can and should be able to do any political job that a man can do.”

62. “I believe in the battle—whether it’s the battle of a campaign or the battle of this office, which is a continuing battle.”

63. “If I were to make public these tapes, containing blunt and candid remarks on many different subjects, the confidentiality of the office of the president would always be suspect.”

64. “We can maintain a free society only if we recognize that in a free society no one can win all the time.”

65. “The public lands represent, in a sense, the breathing space of the nation.”

66. “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity.”

67. “As far as I am concerned now, I have no enemies in the press whatsoever.”

68. “If an individual wants to be a leader and isn’t controversial, that means he never stood for anything.”

69. “I’ve never canceled a subscription to a newspaper because of bad cartoons or editorials. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have any newspapers or magazines to read.”

Richard Nixon Quotes on Wisdom and Truth

70. “I was not lying. I said things that later on seemed to be untrue.”

71. “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I earned everything I’ve got.”

72. “So you are lean, and mean, and resourceful, and you continue to walk on the edge of the precipice because over the years you have become fascinated by how close you can walk without losing your balance.”

73. “History will treat me fairly. Historians probably won’t, because most historians are on the left.”

74. “The defining characteristic of today’s intellectual and media elite is that it swims merrily in a sea of fantasy.”

75. “The more adherents it wins, the more it tempts the aggressor.”

76. “Ideas that fit on bumper stickers are not ideas at all, they simply are attitudes.”

77. “Too often, television is to news as bumper stickers are to philosophy, and this has a corrosive effect on public understanding of those issues on which national survival may depend.”

78. “I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in, and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I had been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.”

79. “The naive notion that we can preserve freedom by exuding goodwill is not only silly, but dangerous.”

80. “It’s a piece of cake until you get to the top.”

81. “There will be no whitewash in the White House.”

82. “The press is the enemy.”

83. “Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation.”

84. “Sure, there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in the national government too.”

85. “Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion.”

86. “I can see clearly now, that I was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate.”

87. “If you think the United States has stood still, who built the largest shopping center in the world?”

88. “The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.”

89. “The sky is no longer the limit.”

Richard Nixon Quotes on Emotions and Will to Do Good

90. “Don’t get the impression that you arouse my anger. You see, one can only be angry with those he respects.”

91. “If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories.”

92. “Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”

93. “People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.”

94. “In the long term, we can hope that religion will change the nature of man and reduce conflict. But history is not encouraging in this respect. The bloodiest wars in history have been religious wars.”

95. “I don’t know anything that builds the will to win better than competitive sports.”

96. “I have never been a quitter.”

97. “Once you get into this great stream of history, you can’t get out.”

98. “Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth to see it like it is, and tell it like it is—to find the truth, to speak the truth, and to live the truth.”

99. “I’ve analyzed the best I can and I have not found an impeachable offense, and therefore, resignation is not an acceptable course.”

100. “Tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.”

101. “We must always remember that America is a great nation today not because of what the government did for people, but because of what people did for themselves and for one another.”

102. “The more you stay in this kind of job, the more you realize that a public figure—a major public figure—is a lonely man.”

103. “We do not learn by inference and deduction and the application of mathematics to philosophy, but by direct intercourse and sympathy.”

104. “My strong point, if I have a strong point, is performance. I always do more than I say. I always produce more than I promise.”

105. “What starts the process, really, are laughs and slights and snubs when you are a kid. If your anger is deep enough and strong enough, you learn that you can change those attitudes by excellence, personal gut performance.”

106. “Get a good night’s sleep and don’t bug anybody without asking me.”

107. “By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of the healing.”

108. “I knew if I continued to look around, it would be difficult for me to contain my own emotions. So I turned away from the red eyes of the crowd and looked only at the red eye of the camera, talking to all the nation.”

109. “When I retire, I’m going to spend my evenings by the fireplace going through those boxes. There are things in there that ought to be burned.”

110. “Scrubbing floors and emptying bedpans has as much dignity as the Presidency.”

111. “Voters quickly forget what a man says.”

112. “There are some people, you know, they think the way to be a big man is to shout and stomp and raise hell—and then nothing ever really happens. I’m not like that, I never shoot blanks.”

113. “Unless a president can protect the privacy of the advice he gets, he cannot get the advice he needs.”

114. “In the television age, the key distinction is between the candidate who can speak poetry and the one who can only speak prose.”

115. “I ask for your support for our brave men fighting tonight halfway around the world, not for territory, not for glory, but that their younger brothers and their sons and your sons can have a chance to grow up in a world of peace and freedom and justice.”

116. “You can force people to go out and welcome a foreign leader, but you can’t force them to smile.”

117. “There are better things you can do with your time.”

118. “President Johnson and I have a lot in common. We were both born in small towns and we’re both fortunate in the fact that we think we married above ourselves.”

119. “I don’t think that a leader can control to any great extent his destiny. Very seldom can he step in and change the situation if the forces of history are running in another direction.”

120. “I brought myself down. I impeached myself by resigning.”

Did These Quotes Make You Want to Realign the Path You’re Taking In Life?

The Watergate Scandal was one of the most notable pieces of history in U.S. politics. After all, it directly involved the 37th President of America. Though his presidency is somewhat recalled in a bad light, he’s also remembered for his quote about greatness—“Greatness comes when you’re really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes.” He lived his life after presidency like this—he stood up amidst the challenges. He persevered. He believed that better days will come in the future if he corrected his path right now. And that’s what we ought to remember—it’s never too late for us to do the right thing.

What did you learn from Richard Nixon? Which quotes stood out the most? Let us know in the comments below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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