Inspiring Quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt 1960
Eleanor Roosevelt 1960. MPI / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Married to her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1905, Eleanor Roosevelt worked in settlement houses before focusing on supporting her husband's political career after he contracted poliomyelitis in 1921. Through the Depression and New Deal and then World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt traveled when her husband was less able to. Her daily column "My Day" in the newspaper broke with precedent, as did her press conferences and lectures. After FDR's death, Eleanor Roosevelt continued her political career, serving in the United Nations and helping create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Selected Eleanor Roosevelt Quotations

  1. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
  2. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
  3. Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.
  4. The word liberal comes from the word free. We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us.
  5. When you know to laugh and when to look upon things as too absurd to take seriously, the other person is ashamed to carry through even if he was serious about it.
  6. It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.
  7. What is to give light must endure the burning.
  8. 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.
  9. For 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.
  10. When all is said and done, and statesmen discuss the future of the world, the fact remains that people fight these wars.
  11. When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
  12. Friendship with oneself is all important because without it one cannot be friends with anybody else in the world.
  13. 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.
  14. I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.
  15. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
  16. I say to the young: "Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively."
  17. As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.
  18. I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.
  19. Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don't be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren't paying attention to you.
  20. 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."
  21. Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.
  22. 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.
  23. It was a wife's duty to be interested in whatever interested her husband, whether it was politics, books, or a particular dish for dinner.
  24. We women are callow fledglings as compared with the wise old birds who manipulate the political machinery, and we still hesitate to believe that a woman can fill certain positions in public life as competently and adequately as a man.
    For instance, it is certain that women do not want a woman for President. Nor would they have the slightest confidence in her ability to fulfill the functions of that office.
    Every woman who fails in a public position confirms this, but every woman who succeeds creates confidence. [1932]
  25. No man is defeated without until he has first been defeated within.
  26. Marriages are two-way streets and when they are not happy both must be willing to adjust. Both must love.
  27. It's good to be middle-aged, things don't matter so much, you don't take it so hard when things happen to you that you don't like.
  28. You like to respect and admire someone whom you love, but actually, you love even more the people who require understanding and who make mistakes and have to grow with their mistakes.
  29. You can't move so fast that you try to change the mores faster than people can accept it. That doesn't mean you do nothing, but it means that you do the things that need to be done according to priority.
  30. It is neither unusual nor new for me to have Negro friends, nor is it unusual for me to have found my friends among all races and religions of people. [1953]
  31. The separation of church and state is extremely important to any of us who hold to the original traditions of our nation. To change these traditions by changing our traditional attitude toward public education would be harmful, I think, to our whole attitude of tolerance in the religious area.
  32. Religious freedom cannot just mean Protestant freedom; it must be freedom of all religious people.
  33. Anyone who knows history, particularly the history of Europe, will, I think, recognize that the domination of education or of government by any one particular religious faith is never a happy arrangement for the people.
  34. A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.
  35. The more we simplify our material needs the more we are free to think of other things.
  36. One must even beware of too much certainty that the answer to life's problems can only be found in one way and that all must agree to search for light in the same way and cannot find it in any other way.
  37. A mature person is one who is 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. (from "It Seems to Me" 1954)
  38. It is essential to have the leadership of a young and energetic President if we are going to have a program of any validity, so let us look forward to a change in November and hope that youth and wisdom will be combined. (1960, looking forward to the election of John F. Kennedy)
  39. Too few of us think of the responsibility facing the man who will be President of the U.S. and of all its people on his inauguration, January 20. The crowds that have surrounded him during the past year, the feel he has had of the people who did support him -- all this will now seem far away as he sits down to appraise the whole situation before him. (1960, November 14, after the election of John F. Kennedy)
  40. You rarely achieve finality. If you did, life would be over, but as you strive new visions open before you, new possibilities for the satisfaction of living.
  41. I consider those are rich who are doing something they feel worthwhile and which they enjoy doing.
  42. She would rather light candles than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the world. (Adlai Stevenson, about Eleanor Roosevelt)

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Inspiring Quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, February 16). Inspiring Quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Inspiring Quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).