Test your presidential know-how with our President’s Day quotes quiz

Posted Monday, Feb. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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In the game of politics and public perception, one misspeak or outright lie can haunt a president or presidential candidate for life, such as George W. Bush prematurely claiming that the “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” and Bill Clinton emphatically saying that he “did not have sex with that woman.”

Conversely, a carefully chosen phrase can help elevate a president’s status to that of legend, such as Ronald Reagan challenging Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” and John F. Kennedy imploring Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

In celebration of Presidents Day, we’d like to test your knowledge of the American leaders who have hung their hats in the Oval Office and some of the famous (and infamous) things they’ve said. Take this quiz and see how you fare.

1. John F. Kennedy, in a 1961 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, said: “Mankind must put an end to _____ before _____ puts an end to mankind.”

a) Violence

b) Hunger

c) Poverty

d) War

2. What president-elect said, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator”?

a) Ronald Reagan

b) Dwight D. Eisenhower

c) George W. Bush

d) Richard Nixon

3. In a letter to John Taylor, John Adams, the second president, said: “Remember, ____ never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a ____ yet that did not commit suicide.”

a) Plutocracy

b) Democracy

c) Theocracy

d) Monarchy

4. In an address to Congress, what president said, “We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party”?

a) Barack Obama

b) George W. Bush

c) George H. W. Bush

d) Ronald Reagan

5. What advocate for the separation of church and state said, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”?

a) James Madison

b) Thomas Jefferson

c) James Monroe

d) Andrew Jackson

6. Abraham Lincoln, arguably the most quotable of presidents, said: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” What speech is this quote taken from?

a) First Inaugural Address (1861)

b) Second Inaugural Address (1865)

c) Gettysburg Address (1863)

d) House Divided Speech (1858)

7. In 2012, what former president said, “Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things, he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies”?

a) Bill Clinton

b) Jimmy Carter

c) George W. Bush

d) George H.W. Bush

8. What slave-owning president said, “I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery]”?

a) George Washington

b) Thomas Jefferson

c) James Monroe

d) John Tyler

9. At the 1988 Republican National Convention, George H.W. Bush said, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” After taking office, however, he raised taxes, giving ammunition to his political foes. What reason did he offer for raising taxes?

a) To reduce the national debt.

b) To help pay for “a thousand points of light.”

c) To get Barbara a facelift.

d) To help fund Desert Storm.

10. What president popularized the proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”?

a) George Washington

b) Harry Truman

c) Theodore Roosevelt

d) Woodrow Wilson

11. During his first inaugural address, what president said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

a) James Madison

b) Franklin D. Roosevelt

c) Dwight Eisenhower

d) Theodore Roosevelt

12. Before he became president, who said, “Facts are stubborn things”?

a) John Quincy Adams

b) Bill Clinton

c) Richard Nixon

d) John Adams

13. Which quote does not belong to George W. Bush?

a) “My answer is, bring ’em on.”

b) “They misunderestimated me.”

c) “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

d) “Stupid is as stupid does.”

14. In a cautionary final speech to the nation, what president said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”?

a) Jimmy Carter

b) Lyndon B. Johnson

c) Dwight D. Eisenhower

d) John F. Kennedy

15. After getting shot and shortly before entering the operating room, Ronald Reagan told his beloved Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” What was the name of Reagan’s would-be assassin?

a) Mark David Chapman

b) John Hinckley Jr.

c) James Earl Ray

d) John Wilkes Booth


1. D. War. The next year, in a televised speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy said: “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

2. C. George W. Bush. The quote aired on CNN on Dec. 18, 2000. After he was in office six months, Bush told BusinessWeek the similar-sounding, “A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it.”

3. B. Democracy. Adams continued with: “It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy.”

4. A. Barack Obama. He said it in an address to Congress on Sept. 8, 2011. Unfortunately, Obama was mistaken. While Lincoln was the first Republican president, he didn’t found the party.

5. B. Thomas Jefferson. Although Jefferson believed in God, he was skeptical about most supernatural claims. Late in life, he used a razor and glue to fashion a Bible in which all of the miracles of Jesus were removed.

6. C. Gettysburg Address. The next line is, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

7. B. Jimmy Carter. The quote comes from a Huffington Post interview to promote Carter’s book, NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections With Jimmy Carter.

8. A. George Washington. The quote is from an April 12, 1786, letter to Robert Morris, in which Washington also says, “There is only one proper way and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority.”

9. A. To reduce the national debt. During his 1992 election campaign, Bill Clinton used Bush’s perceived broken promise to try and make him appear untrustworthy.

10. C. Theodore Roosevelt. In a Jan. 26, 1900, letter to Henry L. Sprague, he wrote: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

11. B. Franklin D. Roosevelt. The speech in question, in which he also assured Americans that their difficulties concerned “only material things,” was during the height of the Great Depression.

12. D. John Adams. Adams, a lawyer at the time, was representing British soldiers who had fired at protesters during the Boston Massacre trial.

13. D. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Film fans know this to be the words of one Forrest Gump.

14. C. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The quote ends with, “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

15. B. John Hinckley Jr. According to his own testimony, Hinckley attempted the assassination to impress actress Jodie Foster, whom he obsessed over.


0-5 points: Thanks for playing, but you’d better prepare for impeachment proceedings.

6-10 points: The polls are turning in your favor, but don’t start picking out White House curtains.

11-14 points: Clearly, you are presidential material.

15 points: The results are in, Mr./Ms. President: You won!

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