Leadership, Politics, Governance

[Because power corrupts] “Society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” — John Adams, 18th-century American Founding Father, second U.S. president

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Unknown

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and will to carry on.” — Walter Lippmann, 20th-century American journalist, author and public philosopher

“If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us saintly. But since we see that avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought, perhaps we must stand fast a little, even at the risk of being heroes.” — Sir Thomas More in the movie “A Man For All Seasons” (1966, screenplay by Robert Bolt)

“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” — George Washington, 18th-century American Founding Father and war hero, first U.S. president

“The people have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge – I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers.” — John Adams, 18t-century American Founding Father, second U.S. president

“Character is the only secure foundation of the state.” — Calvin Coolidge, 20th-century American president

“A man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.” — Niccolo Machiavelli, Florentine Renaissance writer and political adviser

“With all the power that a president has, the most important thing to bear in mind is this: You must not give power to a man unless, above everything else, he has character. Character is the most important qualification the president of the United States can have.” — Richard Nixon (from TV ad for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964)

“All leaders must face some crisis where their own strength of character is the enemy.” — Richard Reeves, 20th-century American journalist and essayist

“In a president, character is everything. A president doesn’t have to be brilliant… He doesn’t have to be clever; you can hire clever… You can hire pragmatic, and you can buy and bring in policy wonks. But you can’t buy courage and decency, you can’t rent a strong moral sense. A president must bring those things with him. He needs to have, in that much-maligned word, but a good one nonetheless, a “vision” of the future he wishes to create. But a vision is worth little if a president doesn’t have the character — the courage and heart — to see it through.” — Peggy Noonan, 20th-century American author, speech writer for U.S. President Ronald Reagan

“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back upon himself.” — Charles DeGaulle, 20th- century French general and president, founder of the Fifth Republic

“Politics ruins the character.” — Otto von Bismarck, 19th-century German chancellor, founder of the German nation state

“Character is power.” — Booker T. Washington, 19th-century American educator

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” — Abraham Lincoln, 19th-century U.S. president

“It is a grand mistake to think of being great without goodness and I pronounce it as certain that there was never a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.” — Benjamin Franklin, 18th-century American Founding Father, inventor and statesman

“Every person in America has done or said something that would keep him or her from being president. Maybe a nation that consumes as much booze and dope as we do and has our kind of divorce statistics should pipe down about ‘character issues.’ ” — P.J. O’Rourke, 20th-century American humorist and essayist

“Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. They make the impossible happen.” — Dr. Robert Jarvik, 20th-century American heart surgeon

“Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right.” — Thomas Jefferson, 18th-century American Founding Father, early 19th-century U.S. president (letter to James Monroe, 1806)

“I don’t like people who are in politics for themselves and not for others. You want that, you can go into show business.” — Elvis Presley, 20th-century American celebrity singer

“There is a secret pride in every human heart that revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you.” — William Hazlitt, early 18th- century English essayist and literary critic

“You can only govern men by serving them.” — Victor Cousin

“A politician would do well to remember that he has to live with his conscience longer than he does with his constituents.” — Melvin R. Laird, 20th-century American secretary of defense

“Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” — Henry Adams, 19th-century American historian, memoirist and diplomat

“An election is a moral horror, as bad as battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned.” — George Bernard Shaw, 19th/20th-century Anglo-Irish dramatist and wit

“Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” — Ambrose Bierce, early 20th-century American journalist and writer (from the Devil’s Dictionary)

“Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when others believe him.” — Charles de Gaulle, 20th-century French general and president, founder of the Fifth Republic

“Washington is a place where men praise courage and act on elaborate personal cost- benefit calculations.” — John Kenneth Galbraith, 20th-century North American economist, author and diplomat

“Never create by law what can be accomplished by morality.” — Charles-Louis de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu, 17th/18th-century French jurist and political philosopher

“Bad administration, to be sure, can destroy good policy; but good administration can never save bad policy.” — Adlai Stevenson, 20th-century American politician, presidential candidate

“How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll in Egypt?” — Harry S. Truman, 20th-century American president

“Politics is the art of controlling the environment.” — Hunter S. Thomson, 20th-century American journalist and writer

“Democracy becomes a government of bullies, tempered by editors.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th-century American essayist, public philosopher and poet