Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes

We have collected and put the best Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes. Enjoy reading these insights and feel free to share this page on your social media to inspire others.

May these Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes on many subjects inspire you to never give up and keep working towards your goals. Who knows—success could be just around the corner.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) was an American political figure, diplomat and activist. She served as the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s four terms in office, making her the longest-serving first lady of the United States. Roosevelt served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. President Harry S. Truman later called her the “First Lady of the World” in tribute to her human rights achievements.

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt in August 1932

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt in August 1932

Quotes on Many Subjects

A stumbling block to the pessimist is a stepping-stone to the optimist. – Eleanor Roosevelt

A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. – Eleanor Roosevelt

All of life is a constant education. – Eleanor Roosevelt

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Anger is one letter short of danger. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Be flexible, but stick to your principles. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do one thing everyday that scares you. Those small things that make us uncomfortable help us build courage to do the work we do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Each of us has… all the time there is. Those years, weeks, hours, are the sands in the glass running swiftly away. To let them drift through our fingers is tragic waste. To use them to the hilt, making them count for something, is the beginning of wisdom. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Great leaders inspire people to have confidence in themselves. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Human resources are the most valuable assets the world has. They are all needed desperately. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I can’t tell you how to succeed, but I can tell you how to fail: Try to please everybody. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on. – Eleanor Roosevelt

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is today that we create the world of the future. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

My experience has been that work is almost the best way to pull oneself out of the depths. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Never be bored, and you will never be boring. – Eleanor Roosevelt

No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful. – Eleanor Roosevelt

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. – Eleanor Roosevelt

People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Poor minds talk about people. Average minds talk about events. Great minds talk about ideas. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Power corrupts. Knowledge is power. Study hard. Be evil. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Some people are going to leave a mark on this world, while others will leave a stain. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says: it can’t be done. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The future is literally in our hands to mold as we like. But we cannot wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow is now. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The greatest gift you can give a child is an imagination. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps! – Eleanor Roosevelt

The only things one can admire at length are those one admires without knowing why. – Eleanor Roosevelt

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. – Eleanor Roosevelt

True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests. – Eleanor Roosevelt

What one has to usually do can be done. – Eleanor Roosevelt

What you don’t do can be a destructive force. – Eleanor Roosevelt

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Work is always an antidote to depression. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You must do the things you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Human Rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights… – Eleanor Roosevelt

Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long-standing, and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Fear

Campaign behavior for wives: Always be on time. Do as little talking as humanly possible. Lean back in the parade car so everybody can see the president. – Eleanor Roosevelt

For it isn’t enough to talk of peace. One must believe it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. – Eleanor Roosevelt

A great deal of fear is a result of just not knowing. We do not know what is involved in a new situation. We do not know whether we can deal with it. The sooner we learn what it entails, the sooner we can dissolve our fear. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Women, Men, and Equality

A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water. – Eleanor Roosevelt

No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful. – Eleanor Roosevelt

There are practical little things in housekeeping which no man really understands. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Men and women who live together through long years get to know one another’s failings, but they also come to know what is worthy of respect and admiration in those they live with and in themselves. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Only a man’s character is the real criterion of worth. – Eleanor Roosevelt

No man is defeated without until he has first been defeated within. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Bravery and Confidence

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Courage is exhilarating. – Eleanor Roosevelt

People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how the character is built. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is a brave thing to have the courage to be an individual; it is also, perhaps, a lonely thing. But it is better than not being an individual, which is to be nobody at all. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Be confident, not certain. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Character Building

Have convictions. Be friendly. Stick to your beliefs as they stick to theirs. Work as hard as they do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. – Eleanor Roosevelt

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude. – Eleanor Roosevelt

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could. – Eleanor Roosevelt

To be mature, you have to realize what you value most… Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.

It is not more vacation we need — it is more vocation. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Anger is one letter short of danger. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Character building begins in our infancy and continues until death. – Eleanor Roosevelt

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Happiness

Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun. – Eleanor Roosevelt

A stumbling block to the pessimist is a stepping-stone to the optimist. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The most unhappy people in the world are those who face the days without knowing what to do with their time. But if you have more projects than you have time for, you are not going to be an unhappy person. This is as much a question of having imagination and curiosity as it is of actually making plans. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness you are able to give. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If anyone were to ask me what I want out of life, I would say- the opportunity for doing something useful, for, in no other way, I am convinced, can true happiness be attained. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product of a life well-lived. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Humanity

Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual; you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If someone betrays you once, it’s their fault; if they betray you twice, it’s your fault. – Eleanor Roosevelt

We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Hate and force cannot be in just a part of the world without having an effect on the rest of it. – Eleanor Roosevelt

When all is said and done, and statesmen discuss the future of the world, the fact remains that people fight these wars. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Politics, War, and Leadership

No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Will people ever be wise enough to refuse to follow bad leaders or to take away the freedom of other people? – Eleanor Roosevelt

The word liberal comes from the word free. We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt

A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer! We must not let that happen here. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Never allow a person to tell you ‘no’ who doesn’t have the power to say ‘yes’. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Life

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Life is like a parachute jump; you’ve got to get it right the first time. – Eleanor Roosevelt

When life is too easy for us, we must beware, or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Since everybody is an individual, nobody can be you. You are unique. No one can tell you how to use your time. It is yours. Your life is your own. You mold it. You make it. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Life must be lived, and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If life were predictable, it would cease to be life and be without flavor. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Every time you meet a situation you think at the time it is an impossibility, and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it, you find that forever after you are freer than you were before. – Eleanor Roosevelt

We all create the person we become by our choices as we go through life. In a real sense, by the time we are adults, we are the sum total of the choices we have made. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s your life, but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m so glad I never feel important; it does complicate life! – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Love and Friendship

You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude. – Eleanor Roosevelt

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Enjoy every minute you have with those you love, my dear, for no one can take joy that is past away from you. It will be there in your heart to live on when the dark days come. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The basis of world peace is the teaching which runs through almost all the great religions of the world. Love thy neighbor as thyself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Friendship with one’s self is all-important because, without it, one can not be friends with anyone else in the world. – Eleanor Roosevelt

You always admire what you really don’t understand. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The most important thing in any relationship is not what you get but what you give. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Love can often be misguided and do as much harm as good, but respect can do only good. It assumes that the other person’s stature is as large as one’s own, his rights as reasonable, his needs as important. – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Before we can make friends with anyone else, we must first make friends with ourselves. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If you lose money, you lose much. If you lose friends, you lose more. If you lose faith, you lose all. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Education and Knowledge

Understanding is a two-way street. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect. – Eleanor Roosevelt

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? – Eleanor Roosevelt

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I am convinced that every effort must be made in childhood to teach the young to use their own minds. For one thing, is sure: If they don’t make up their minds, someone will do it for them. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If you can develop this ability to see what you look at, to understand its meaning, to readjust your knowledge to this new information, you can continue to learn and to grow as long as you live, and you’ll have a wonderful time doing it. – Eleanor Roosevelt

When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The giving of love is an education in itself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The mind must be trained, rather than the memory. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I never waste time looking back. – Eleanor Roosevelt

All life is a constant education. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Strength that goes wrong is even more dangerous than weakness that goes wrong. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About Success and Going After Your Dreams

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Every woman wants to be first to someone sometime in her life and that desire is the explanation for many strange things women do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If man is to be liberated to enjoy more leisure, he must also be prepared to enjoy this leisure fully and creatively. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. – Eleanor Roosevelt

One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else. – Eleanor Roosevelt

As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along. – Eleanor Roosevelt

We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Choose a challenge instead of competence. – Eleanor Roosevelt

The very next thing you need to be doing is the thing that terrifies you the most. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Success must include two things: the development of an individual to his utmost potentiality and a contribution of some kind to one’s world. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Your ambition should be to get as much life out of living as you possibly can, as much enjoyment, as much interest, as much experience, as much understanding. Not simply be what is generally called a ‘success. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949.

At all times, day by day, we have to continue fighting for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom from want — for these are things that must be gained in peace as well as in war.

From WikiQuote

  • Oh! I want to put my arms around you, I ache to hold you close. Your ring is a great comfort. I look at it and think she does love me or I wouldn’t be wearing it!
    • In a letter to Lorena Hickok, March 7, 1933
  • Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
    • As quoted in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1944; 1948) by Dale Carnegie; though Roosevelt has sometimes been credited with the originating the expression, “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” is set in quote marks, indicating she herself was quoting a common expression in saying this. Actually, this saying was coined back even earlier, 1836, by evangelist Lorenzo Dow in his sermons about ministers saying the Bible contradicts itself, telling his listeners, “… those who preach it up, to make the Bible clash and contradict itself, by preaching somewhat like this: ‘You can and you can’t-You shall and you shan’t-You will and you won’t-And you will be damned if you do-And you will be damned if you don’t.’ “
  • Understanding is a two-way street.
    • As quoted in Modern Quotations for Ready Reference (1947) by Arthur Richmond, p. 455
  • It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
    • Voice of America broadcast (11 November 1951)
  • We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.
    • The New York Times (1960), as cited in The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women (1992) by Rosalie Maggio, p. 156
  • To me who dreamed so much as a child, who made a dreamworld in which I was the heroine of an unending story, the lives of people around me continued to have a certain storybook quality. I learned something which has stood me in good stead many times — The most important thing in any relationship is not what you get but what you give.
    • Preface (December 1960) to The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961), p. xvi; the last line was originally used in the initial edition of her autobiography: This Is My Story (1937)
  • Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.
    • Preface (December 1960) to The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961), p. xix
  • My husband plunged into work on a speech and I went off to work on an article. Midnight came and bed for all, and all that was said was “good night, sleep well, pleasant dreams, with the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.’
    • from “My Day” (January 8, 1936)[1]
  • I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.
    • From article “In Defense of Curiosity” appearing in The Saturday Evening Post 208 (August 24, 1935); 8-9, 64-66. As cited in What I Hope to Leave Behind, The Essential Essays of Eleanor Roosevelt Edited by Alida M. Black, p 20.
    • As quoted in Todays Health (October 1966)
  • When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.
    • As quoted in Eleanor : The Years Alone (1972) by Joseph P. Lash
  • I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
    • As quoted in Peter’s Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1972) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 5
  • Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.
    • As quoted in The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women (1992) by Rosalie Maggio, p. 130
  • When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
    • As quoted in “On The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” by Hillary Rodham Clinton in Issues of Democracy Vol. 3, No. 3 (October 1998), p. 11
  • You get more joy out of the giving to others, and should put a good deal of thought into the happiness you are able to give.
    • As quoted in Sheroes: Bold, Brash, and Absolutely Unabashed Superwomen from Susan B. Anthony to Xena (1998) by Varla Ventura, p. 150
  • I think I have a good deal of my Uncle Theodore in me, because I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on.
    • As quoted in The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America (2002) by James MacGregor Burns ad Susan Dunn, p. 563
    • Variant: I could not at any age be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.
  • I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: “No good in a bed, but fine against a wall”.
    • From a speech given at the White Shrine Club, Fresno, California, quoted in The Event Makers I’ve Known (2012) by Elvin C. Bell, p. 161. She is described as being in her late 70s, so c. 1960–1962

This Is My Story (1937)

  • Up to a certain point it is good for us to know that there are people in the world who will give us love and unquestioned loyalty to the limit of their ability. I doubt, however, if it is good for us to feel assured of this without the accompanying obligation of having to justify this devotion by our behavior.
  • The most important thing in any relationship is not what you get but what you give.

You Learn by Living (1960)

  • The purpose of life…is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
    • Foreword (January 1960)
  • One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In stopping to think through the meaning of what I have learned, there is much that I believe intensely, much I am unsure of. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
    • Foreword (January 1960)
  • One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. … All you need to do is to be curious, receptive, eager for experience. And there’s one strange thing: when you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.
    • p. 14
  • You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
    • p. 29–30
  • A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
    • p. 63
  • Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product. Paradoxically, the one sure way not to be happy is deliberately to map out a way of life in which one would please oneself completely and exclusively.
    • p. 95
  • “Anxiety,” Kierkegaard said, “is the dizziness of freedom.” This freedom of which men speak, for which they fight, seems to some people a perilous thing. It has to be earned at a bitter cost and then — it has to be lived with. For freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.
    We must all face and unpalatable fact that we have, too often, a tendency to skim over; we proceed on the assumption that all men want freedom. This is not as true as we would like it to be. Many men and women who are far happier when they have relinquish their freedom, when someone else guides them, makes their decisions for them, takes the responsibility for them and their actions. They don’t want to make up their minds. They don’t want to stand on their own feet.

    • p. 152

My Day (1935–1962)

Her daily newspaper column : selections at PBS
  • It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death. (1 April 1939)
  • I was one of those who was very happy when the original prohibition amendment passed. I thought innocently that a law in this country would automatically be complied with, and my own observation led me to feel rather ardently that the less strong liquor anyone consumed the better it was. During prohibition I observed the law meticulously, but I came gradually to see that laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law. (14 July 1939)
  • Little by little it dawned upon me that this law was not making people drink any less, but it was making hypocrites and law breakers of a great number of people. It seemed to me best to go back to the old situation in which, if a man or woman drank to excess, they were injuring themselves and their immediate family and friends and the act was a violation against their own sense of morality and no violation against the law of the land. (14 July 1939)
  • Will people ever be wise enough to refuse to follow bad leaders or to take away the freedom of other people? (16 October 1939)
  • No writing has any real value which is not the expression of genuine thought and feeling. (20 December 1939)
  • When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor. (23 February 1940)
  • I have a great belief in spiritual force, but I think we have to realize that spiritual force alone has to have material force with it so long as we live in a material world. The two together make a strong combination. (17 May 1940)
  • Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little. (1 July 1940)
  • One should always sleep in all of one’s guest beds, to make sure that they are comfortable. (11 September 1941)
  • Long ago, I made up my mind that when things were said involving only me, I would pay no attention to them, except when valid criticism was carried by which I could profit. (14 January 1942)
  • One of the blessings of age is to learn not to part on a note of sharpness, to treasure the moments spent with those we love, and to make them whenever possible good to remember, for time is short. (5 February 1943)
  • At all times, day by day, we have to continue fighting for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom from want — for these are things that must be gained in peace as well as in war. (15 April 1943)
  • One of the best ways of enslaving a people is to keep them from education… The second way of enslaving a people is to suppress the sources of information, not only by burning books but by controlling all the other ways in which ideas are transmitted. (11 May 1943)
  • Only a man’s character is the real criterion of worth. (22 August 1944)
  • I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could. (8 November 1944)
  • It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.[1][2] (15 June 1946)
  • I have waited a while before saying anything about the Un-American Activities Committee’s current investigation of the Hollywood film industry. I would not be very much surprised if some writers or actors or stagehands, or what not, were found to have Communist leanings, but I was surprised to find that, at the start of the inquiry, some of the big producers were so chicken-hearted about speaking up for the freedom of their industry.
    One thing is sure — none of the arts flourishes on censorship and repression. And by this time it should be evident that the American public is capable of doing its own censoring.
     Certainly, the Thomas Committee is growing more ludicrous daily. (29 October 1947)
  • The film industry is a great industry with infinite possibilities for good and bad. Its primary purpose is to entertain people. On the side, it can do many other things. It can popularize certain ideals, it can make education palatable. But in the long run, the judge who decides whether what it does is good or bad is the man or woman who attends the movies. In a democratic country I do not think the public will tolerate a removal of its right to decide what it thinks of the ideas and performances of those who make the movie industry work. (29 October 1947)
  • What is going on in the Un-American Activities Committee worries me primarily because little people have become frightened and we find ourselves living in the atmosphere of a police state, where people close doors before they state what they think or look over their shoulders apprehensively before they express an opinion.
    I have been one of those who have carried the fight for complete freedom of information in the United Nations. And while accepting the fact that some of our press, our radio commentators, our prominent citizens and our movies may at times be blamed legitimately for things they have said and done, still I feel that the fundamental right of freedom of thought and expression is essential. If you curtail what the other fellow says and does, you curtail what you yourself may say and do.
    In our country we must trust the people to hear and see both the good and the bad and to choose the good. The Un-American Activities Committee seems to me to be better for a police state than for the USA. (29 October 1947)
  • The mobilization of world opinion and methods of negotiation should be developed and used by every nation in order to strengthen the United Nations. Then if we are forced into war, it will be because there has been no way to prevent it through negotiation and the mobilization of world opinion. In which case we should have the voluntary support of many nations, which is far better than the decision of one nation alone, or even of a few nations. (16 April 1954)
  • This is a time for action — not for war, but for mobilization of every bit of peace machinery. It is also a time for facing the fact that you cannot use a weapon, even though it is the weapon that gives you greater strength than other nations, if it is so destructive that it practically wipes out large areas of land and great numbers of innocent people. (16 April 1954 )
  • If the use of leisure time is confined to looking at TV for a few extra hours every day, we will deteriorate as a people. (5 November 1958)
  • The arts in every field — music, drama, sculpture, painting — we can learn to appreciate and enjoy. We need not be artists, but we should be able to appreciate the work of artists. (5 November 1958)
  • If man is to be liberated to enjoy more leisure, he must also be prepared to enjoy this leisure fully and creatively. For people to have more time to read, to take part in their civic obligations, to know more about how their government functions and who their officials are might mean in a democracy a great improvement in the democratic processes. Let’s begin, then, to think how we can prepare old and young for these new opportunities. Let’s not wait until they come upon us suddenly and we have a crisis that we will be ill prepared to meet. (5 November 1958)
  • In times past, the question usually asked by women was “How can we best help to defend our nation?” I cannot remember a time when the question on so many people’s lips was “How can we prevent war?”
    There is a widespread understanding among the people of this nation, and probably among the people of the world, that there is no safety except through the prevention of war. For many years war has been looked upon as almost inevitable in the solution of any question that has arisen between nations, and the nation that was strong enough to do so went about building up its defenses and its power to attack. It felt that it could count on these two things for safety. (20 December 1961)
  • A consciousness of the fact that war means practically total destruction is the reason, I think, for the rising tide to prevent what seems such a senseless procedure. I understand that it is perhaps difficult for some people, whose lives have been lived with a sense of the need for military development, to envisage the possibility of being no longer needed. But the average citizen is beginning to think more and more of the need to develop machinery to settle difficulties in the world without destruction or the use of atomic bombs. (20 December 1961)
  • We should begin in our own environment and in our own community as far as possible to build a peace-loving attitude and learn to discipline ourselves to accept, in the small things of our lives, mediation and arbitration. As individuals, there is little that any of us can do to prevent an accidental use of bombs in the hands of those who already have them. We can register, however, with our government a firm protest against granting the knowledge and the use of these weapons to those who do not now have them. (20 December 1961)
  • As long as we are not actually destroyed, we can work to gain greater understanding of other peoples and to try to present to the peoples of the world the values of our own beliefs. We can do this by demonstrating our conviction that human life is worth preserving and that we are willing to help others to enjoy benefits of our civilization just as we have enjoyed it. (20 December 1961)

Tomorrow Is Now (1963)

  • We face the future fortified with the lessons we have learned from the past. It is today that we must create the world of the future. Spinoza, I think, pointed out that we ourselves can make experience valuable when, by imagination and reason, we turn it into foresight.
    • p. xv
  • Human resources are the most valuable assets the world has. They are all needed desperately.
    • p. 71
  • There never has been security. No man has ever known what he would meet around the next corner; if life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.
    • p. 80
  • We must know what we think and speak out, even at the risk of unpopularity. In the final analysis, a democratic government represents the sum total of the courage and the integrity of its individuals. It cannot be better than they are. … In the long run there is no more exhilarating experience than to determine one’s position, state it bravely and then act boldly.
    • pp. 119–120
  • What we must learn to do is to create unbreakable bonds between the sciences and the humanities. We cannot procrastinate. The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.
    • p. 134
  • Example is the best lesson there is.

Disputed

  • No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
    • Sometimes claimed to appear in her book This is My Story, but in The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes (2006), Keyes writes on p. 97 that “Bartlett’s and other sources say her famous quotation can be found in This is My Story, Roosevelt’s 1937 autobiography. It can’t. Quotographer Rosalie Maggio scoured that book and many others by and about Roosevelt in search of this line, without success. In their own extensive searching, archivists at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, have not been able to find the quotation in This Is My Story or any other writing by the First Lady. A discussion of some of the earliest known attributions of this quote to Roosevelt, which may be a paraphrase from an interview, can be found in this entry from Quote Investigator.
  • The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
    • Often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt without an original source in her writings, for example in the introduction to It Seems to Me : Selected Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt (2001) by Leonard C. Schlup and Donald W. Whisenhunt, p. 2. But archivists have not been able to find the quote in any of her writings, see the comment from Ralph Keyes in The Quote Verifier above.
  • Women are like tea bags. You never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water.
    • Another quote often attributed to her without an original source in her writings, as in The Wit and Wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt (1996), p. 199. But once again archivists have not been able to find the quote in any of her writings, see the comment from Ralph Keyes in The Quote Verifier above.
    • A very similar remark was attributed to Nancy Reagan, in The Observer (29 March 1981): “A woman is like a teabag — only in hot water do you realize how strong she is.”
    • Variants:
    • A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.
    • A woman is like a tea bag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
    • A woman is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is and how much to trust her until you put her in hot water.
  • Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
    • Some evidence for Henry Buckle (1821-1862) as the source: see p.33 quotation
    • There are many published incidents of this as an anonymous proverb since at least 1948, and as a statement of Eleanor Roosevelt since at least 1992, but without any citation of an original source. It is also often attributed to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover but, though Rickover quoted this, he did not claim to be the author of it; in “The World of the Uneducated” in The Saturday Evening Post (28 November 1959), he prefaces it with “As the unknown sage puts it…”
    • Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and little minds discuss people.
      • In this form it was quoted as an anonymous epigram in A Guide to Effective Public Speaking (1953) by Lawrence Henry Mouat
      • New York times Saturday review of books and art, 1931: …Wanted, the correct quotation and origin of this expression: Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people…
    • Several other variants or derivatives of the expression exist, but none provide a definite author:
      • Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events, small minds discuss personalities.
      • Great minds discuss ideas
        Average minds discuss events
        Small minds discuss people
      • Small minds discuss things
        Average minds discuss people
        Great minds discuss ideas
    • …Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas. (Marie Curie, undated (died 1934), as quoted in Living Adventures in Science by Henry and Dana Lee Thomas, 1972)
    • …Some professor of psychology who has been eavesdropping for years makes the statement that “The best minds discuss ideas; the second in ranking talk about things; while the third group, or the least in mentality, gossip about people”… (Hardware age, Volume 123, 1929)
    • …He now reports that, “the best minds discuss ideas; the second ranking talks about things; while the third and lowest mentality – starved for ideas – gossips about people.” (Printers’ Ink, Volume 139, Issue 2, 1927, p. 87)
    • …It has been said long ago that there were three classes of people in the world, and while they are subject to variation, for elemental consideration they are useful. The first is that large class of people who talk about people; the next class are those who talk about things; and the third class are those who discuss ideas… (H. J. Derbyshire, “Origin of mental species”, 1919)
    • …Mrs. Conklin points out certain bad conversational habits and suggests good ones, quoting Buckle’s classic classification of talkers into three orders of intelligence — those who talk about nothing but persons, those who talk about things and those who discuss ideas… (review of Mary Greer Conklin’s book Conversation: What to say and how to say it in The Continent, Jan. 23, 1913, p. 118)
    • …[ Henry Thomas Buckle’s ] thoughts and conversations were always on a high level, and I recollect a saying of his which not only greatly impressed me at the time, but which I have ever since cherished as a test of the mental calibre of friends and acquaintances. Buckle said, in his dogmatic way: “Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons, the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas”… (Charles Stewart, “Haud immemor. Reminescences of legal and social life in Edinburgh and London. 1850-1900”, 1901, p. 33).
  • Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift… that’s why they call it the present.
    • The quote is usually regarded as anonymous, but is often attributed to her on several websites, as well as in several books, including My Life Is an Open Book (2008), The Spirituality of Mary Magdalene (2008), Mis cuatro estaciones (2008), and Gilles Lamontagne (2010). None of these works cite any original reference.
  • Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself
    • Cited as a piece of anonymous folk-wisdom from the 1940s onwards. Not attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt until 2001.

Misattributed

  • America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed.
    • Deliberately misattributed for comic effect in the opening of the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
  • I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.
    • Not by Roosevelt, but from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989).

Quotes about Roosevelt

  • Eleanor Roosevelt, fine, precise, hand-worked like ivory. Her voice was almost attractive … One had the impression of a lady who was finally becoming a woman, which is to say that she was just a little bitchy about it all; nice bitchy, charming, it had a touch of art to it, but it made one wonder if she were not now satisfying the last passion of them all, which was to become physically attractive, for she was better-looking than she had ever been.
    • Norman Mailer, Superman Comes to the Supermarket. (November 1960)
  • I have lost more than a beloved friend. I have lost an inspiration. She would rather light candles than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world.
    • Adlai Stevenson, in a eulogy in the United Nations General Assembly (7 November 1962) adapting a statement that is the motto of the The Christophers, derived from a Chinese proverb (which has sometimes been attributed to Confucius).
  • She thought of herself as an ugly duckling, but she walked in beauty in the ghettos of the world, bringing with her the reminder of her beloved St. Francis, “It is in the giving that we receive.” And wherever she walked beauty was forever there.
    • Adlai Stevenson, addressing the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey (27 August 1964); as quoted in Adlai Stevenson (1966) by Lillian Ross, p. 28; reproduced in America’s Political Dynasties: From Adams to Clinton (2015) by Stephen Hess, p. 203
  • Part of my job in Noumea consisted in briefing frequent important visitors. One was Mrs. Roosevelt, who had tried unsuccessfully to visit us on Guadalcanal. She now turned up sporting a letter from the President to Halsey and me- she would go to the island provided we could take satisfactory security precautions, which we did. Eleanor Roosevelt was a remarkable woman, seemingly tireless during her frequent peregrinations. When Halsey and I met her in Noumea we proposed to take her to the Red Cross center where she could comfortably rest from her long flight. No, indeed- she insisted on going directly to the nearest hospital. She spent the bulk of her time in new Caledonia visiting our sick and wounded, talking to them by the hundreds. In each case she took the man’s home address and upon her return to America wrote his family.
    • Alexander Vandegrift, Once A Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964), p. 221