Ross Perot’s ‘plain Texas talk’ charmed Americans. Here are some of his best quotes

Ross Perot, who ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1992 and 1996, charmed America with his straight-talk and sharp insights.

Perot, also a self-made billionaire who ran electronics and computer companies in Texas, died Tuesday at age 89 after a five-month battle with leukemia, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Sometimes poignant, sometimes wacky, the Texas billionaire often stunned audiences with his “plain Texas talk.”

His 1992 running mate, retired Admiral James Stockdale, had a famous quip of his own at a vice-presidential debate, introducing himself to voters by asking, “Who am I? Why am I here? I’m not a politician.”

Here are some of Perot’s best-known quotes.

  • “The debt is like a crazy aunt we keep down in the basement. All the neighbors know she’s there, but nobody wants to talk about her.”
  • “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”
  • “In plain Texas talk, it’s ‘do the right thing.’”
  • “When building a team, I always search first for people who love to win. If I can’t find any of those, I look for people who hate to lose.”
  • “The most successful people in the world aren’t usually the brightest. They are the ones who persevere.”
  • “Eagles don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.”
  • “Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious.”
  • “Never ask anyone to do what you haven’t done before and wouldn’t do again. That’s a pretty fundamental rule in leadership: treat them like you treat yourself. Things you don’t like, they don’t like.”
  • “Don’t run your life by what’s legal or illegal. Run your life based on what’s right or wrong.”
  • “My role in life is that of the grain of sand to the oyster. It irritates the oyster and out comes a pearl.”
  • “Failures are like skinned knees, painful but superficial.”
  • “I was born rich. Not in tangible things, but rich in the parents I had.”
  • “If you can’t stand a little sacrifice and you can’t stand a trip across the desert with limited water, we’re never going to straighten this country out.”
  • “If you get lucky, if you make a lot of money, if you get out and buy a lot of stuff, it’s gonna break. You got your biggest, fanciest mansion in the world. It has air conditioning. It’s got a pool. Just think of all the pumps that are going to go out. Or go to a yacht basin any place in the world. Nobody is smiling, and I’ll tell you why. Something broke that morning. The generator’s out, the microwave oven doesn’t work. Things just don’t mean happiness.”
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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
Dawson covers goings-on across the central region, from breaking to bizarre. She is an MSt candidate at the University of Cambridge and lives in Kansas City.