Archive | February, 2014

32 American Presidents Share Their Best Life Advice

18 Feb

Some of them hated it. Some of them loved it. All of them learned from it.

Since George Washington’s inauguration, 43 men have occupied the White House to perform one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Some defined their terms with great accomplishments or grave misjudgments; others barely made a mark on history. Yet all strove to fulfill their mandate to the best of their abilities and live up to the incredible expectations placed upon them.

Whether they succeeded or failed, our fascination with presidents’ leadership styles, habits, decisions and personalities continue long after they leave office. Their perspectives and pronouncements are dissected over and over as we seek to understand what these men, who went through an experience most Americans can barely conceptualize, can teach us about life.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the best advice from 32 presidents past and present on how to do and be your best, no matter how challenging your job is.


George Washington, 1789-1797: “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.”


John Adams, 1797-1801: “You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen.”

Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809: “When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.

James Monroe, 1817-1825: “It is by a thorough knowledge of the whole subject that [people] are enabled to judge correctly of the past and to give a proper direction to the future.”

John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”


Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837: “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

Martin Van Buren1837-1841: “All the lessons of history and experience must be lost upon us if we are content to trust alone to the peculiar advantages we happen to possess.”

John Tyler, 1841-1845: “Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.”

Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853: “An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory.”

James Buchanan, 1857-1861: “A long visit to a friend is often a great bore. Never make people twice glad.”

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.”

Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877: “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”

Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881: “For honest merit to succeed amid the tricks and intrigues which are now so lamentably common, I know is difficult; but the honor of success is increased by the obstacles which are to be surmounted. Let me triumph as a man or not at all.”

James Garfield, 1881: “Be fit for more than the thing you are now doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.”

Chester Arthur, 1881-1885: “Good ball players make good citizens.”

Grover Cleveland, 1885-18891893-1897: “Whatever you do, tell the truth.”


Teddy Roosevelt, 1901-1909: “We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.”

William Taft, 1909-1913: “Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.”

Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921: “One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to be supplied is light, not heat.”

Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb … Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933-1945: “Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you.”

Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953: “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”

Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-1961: “Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”


John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963: “Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met — obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.”

Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969: “If we succeed, it will not be because of what we have, but it will be because of what we are; not because of what we own, but, rather because of what we believe.”

Richard Nixon, 1969-1974: “The American dream does not come to those who fall asleep.”

Jimmy Carter, Jr., 1977-1981: “Piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989: “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

George H.W. Bush, 1989-1993: “No problem of human making is too great to be overcome by human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.”

Bill Clinton, 1993-2001: “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”

George W. Bush, 2001-2009: “Life takes its own turns, makes its own demands, writes its own story, and along the way, we start to realize we are not the author.”


Barack Obama, 2009-present: “One voice can change a room. And if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

Additional editing and reporting by Jill Klausen and Elizabeth Wilke.



New Afghan Law Disastrous for Women, Says National Geographic Photographer

9 Feb

A proposed law would roll back gains made to protect Afghan women, photographer Lynsey Addario warns.


Bibi Aisha was 19 when I met her in Kabul’s Women for Afghan Women shelter. Her husband, a Taliban fighter, beat her from the day she was married, at age 12. After she escaped to seek a neighbor’s help, her husband cut off her nose, ears, and hair. Aisha later came to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery.


Eve Conant

National Geographic


National Geographic photographer Lynsey Addario says that a new Afghan law, passed by parliament and awaiting signature by President Hamid Karzai, would effectively silence victims of domestic violence.

Addario first traveled to Afghanistan 14 years ago when it was under Taliban rule and has returned every year since. Over that time, rights and protections for Afghan women have been strengthened, and many women now have access to education and jobs.

But last year, Afghanistan saw a 28 percent increase in reports of attacks against women, according to the UN, with little rise in prosecutions. And now, a small but consequential change to the criminal code could make domestic violence—already rampant in Afghanistan—nearly impossible to prosecute.

In her 2010 photo essay for National Geographic, “Veiled Rebellion,” Addario bore witness to both the abuse and the progress of Afghan women.


Nazer Begam and her pregnant daughter, Noor Nisa (at right), whose water had just broken, were stranded on the side of the road outside Faizabad after their car broke down on their way to a clinic. Their male relative had gone to look for another vehicle.

Her photographs show women maimed by their husbands for small acts of defiance. By contrast, ebullient teachers-in-training are seen picnicking in a women’s garden established by a female Afghan governor.

The groundbreaking 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) criminalized acts of child marriage, rape, and other forms of violence against women.

But laws are only as effective as their enforcement, and Addario details how the proposed new law could roll back many of the hard-won protections she’s documented in recent years.

Can you tell us about this new law the Afghan parliament has passed?

Basically what it’s saying is that relatives cannot testify when a woman has been assaulted or raped. Essentially what that means is that no onecan testify, because a woman only sees relatives, and a woman is only seen by relatives. Often it’s a family member who is perpetrating the crime, and the only other witnesses are relatives. They are the only people who would ever be privy to a woman while she was getting abused or afterwards. It’s a very indirect way of saying that you can do whatever you want to the women in your family. It’s essentially giving free rein to people as they’ll never have to worry about prosecution.

From what you’ve seen in Afghanistan, what do you think that change will mean for women?

Violence is ubiquitous. I interviewed about 300 women over two years for the National Geographic story, and an extremely high percentage of them were beaten repeatedly or suffered some sort of abuse. Being beaten is pretty prevalent—it’s a phenomenon that happens, I don’t know why. I’ve often talked to my male translators about it, and they’ve said maybe it’s a product of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] or war, or that it’s a cultural thing. This law will basically mean that it happens without any repercussions at all.

What’s changed since 2009—why has it gone from the Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women to this?

I think rather than starting with 2009, you should start with 2000 or 2001—the war and the fall of the Taliban. There have been advances in protecting women’s rights, but a lot of them are not actually put into practice. Women don’t really have a place to go if they’re being abused. There are women’s shelters, like those run by Women for Afghan Women, but they’re not universally accepted in Afghanistan, and they’re constantly under threat of attack or being closed down.

If a woman’s husband is beating her on a daily basis, she can’t just ask for a divorce. It’s not acceptable in society. And if she does ask for a divorce, often she’ll be killed by her family—because it brings shame to her family—or she’ll be put in prison. I’ve met dozens of women in prison who’ve done nothing more than try to ask for a divorce. The international community is going to be pulling out of Afghanistan, and Afghans need to make decisions for themselves. If these are the decisions they’re making, it’s pretty terrifying. It’s a very scary future for women in Afghanistan.


I was photographed here taking a break. This was the same road where we came upon Nazer Begam and Noor Nisa, whom we decided to take to a hospital in Faizabad. She vomited the entire way, because she was in labor and because she was carsick—she’d never been in a vehicle before that day.

When you’re photographing women rather than men, do you work with the camera differently?

Yes. I often don’t shoot very much, and I’ll keep my cameras in my bag. I’ll spend a lot of time talking to people and making them feel comfortable. Then I’ll get their permission, and then I’ll photograph. A lot of what I’m doing when the story is very sensitive is just hanging out, and then I’ll photograph very sparingly.

During your most recent visit, what were the women you were photographing communicating to you? Were you ever struck by some of the things they told you, or their impressions of you as a woman photographer?

I was there in September, on a women’s story that has not yet been published, so I can’t really talk about it yet. But I think my lifestyle, as a Western woman, is very confusing to an Afghan woman. Afghan women rarely leave their home or venture outside. They get married and have children, and their life revolves around the home. For years when I went to Afghanistan, the only questions they would ask me were “Are you married?” and “Do you have children?” And I answered no to both of those questions for many years. They always looked at me with these very sad expressions. They thought I would be lonely.

Educated Afghans who travel understand both worlds. But I try to be very careful as a journalist, to be very mindful of their culture and their traditions. I can’t really bring my perspective or my opinion and try to impose that on anyone. But if we’re talking about women’s human rights abuses, if we’re talking about ownership of women and basically taking away the only justice they have, then I would argue the laws are condoning and perpetuating violence against women.

Do you think the law will pass?

I don’t know. Human rights organizations are making their case to Karzai and asking him not to sign it. I don’t know, he’s pretty irreverent these days, so I’m not sure.

When you were in women’s shelters, did you see extreme violence?

Yes. Unbelievable. Extreme. I’ve seen women who have been burned with metal. I’ve seen women who have been gang-raped. I’ve seen women who’ve had their noses cut off. Everything. I mean everything. I’ve seen things that I never imagined a human being could do to another human being, much less a woman. I used to go to shelters routinely over the years, and almost every time I would end up in tears, paralyzed by sadness. For every step forward there are ten steps back. At some point Afghans need to decide for themselves if they want to move forward. This law, essentially, rolls back all the gains that have been made in terms of protecting women.