The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in the Beauty of Their Dreams

Eleanor Roosevelt? Addie Philko? Thomas Malory? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular motivational statement has been attributed to the social activist and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt:

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

I have been unable to find a solid citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Prominent researchers such as Ralph Keyes, 1 Fred R. Shapiro, 2 and Barry Popik 3 have been unable to find a substantive link to Eleanor Roosevelt who died in 1962.

The earliest strong match located by QI occurred in 1978 within a classified advertisement published in “The Surrey Leader” of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 4

Do your dreams for the future get put off year after year? Let us show you our exciting business you run from your home to give you the income to make these dreams a reality. The future belongs to those who have the courage to believe in the beauty of their dreams.

The expression above mentioned “courage” and was slightly more complicated than the target quotation. The ad copy writer was unidentified, and QI hypothesizes that the statement was already in circulation in 1978 without attribution. The modern saying was credited to Eleanor Roosevelt by 1986 as shown in the citation listed further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

On July 4, 1957 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her syndicated newspaper column about the dreams of people when the U.S. Declaration of Independence was issued and the Constitution was drafted. Her words were thematically related to the saying, but the quotation was different: 5

It was by living hard and courageous lives that these people tried to bring their dreams of liberty to reality, and this fact is a good one to emphasize today. It is the living that we do that still matters, and will matter in what we make of our country in the next few years.

A close match appeared in 1978 as noted previously. In 1981 a columnist named Addie Philko writing in “The Times Herald” of Port Huron, Michigan printed the saying without attribution: 6

When you stargaze tonight, remember — the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

In May 1983 the graduating students of a high school in Woodhull, Illinois selected the saying as a motto. No ascription was specified. The “W” in “AlWood” is capitalized: 7

Fifty-three seniors at AlWood High School in Woodhull, who chose as their class motto, “The Future Lies in Those Who Believe in the Beauty of Their Dreams,” graduated Wednesday.

In June 1983 a Chula Vista, California newspaper article reviewed the messages printed on commercial graduation cards. One card attributed the saying to “Thomas Mallory”. This might be a misspelling of Sir Thomas Malory, the English 15th century author of “Le Morte d’Arthur”: 8

One especially touching card portrays a young male in graduation robes, diploma in hand, silhouetted by a moonlight reflection on a lake. Thomas Mallory is quoted as, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

In 1986 “Learning Vacations: The All Season Guide to Educational Travel” by Gerson G. Eisenberg included a filler item ascribing the remark to Roosevelt: 9

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

In March 1986 a newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee published an advertisement for a music venue that included the saying without attribution: 10

* Thought For The Week *
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

In December 1986 “The Fresno Bee” of Fresno, California published a profile of a local student who had won an award for speechmaking. One of her speeches included a variant statement without the word “beauty”: 11

Those talks got her into the finals for impromptu speaking. She won her national title with a speech based on a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.”

In 1987 Donna Oliver who had been selected the Teacher of the Year by the National Education Association spoke before an Assembly. She employed a variant statement with an anonymous attribution: 12

Someone once said, “Those who believe in the beauty of their dreams believe in the future.” I, Donna Oliver, say, “We can dream, because we teach. And we teach because we believe in the future.”

In January 1988 “Ms.” magazine credited the remark to Roosevelt: 13

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” This year Ms. has chosen 13 women who turned the beauty of their dreams into action.

In June 1988 the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” in Missouri printed the motto of a local high school senior class. The variant saying omitted the word “beauty”, and no attribution was given: 14

The theme of this year’s commencement is a motto chosen by the graduating class of 200 students: “The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.”

In conclusion, this article presents a snapshot of current research. The ascription to Eleanor Roosevelt is unsupported, and the earliest instances were anonymous. Illuminating citations may be uncovered in a future of beautiful dreams.

(Thanks to the pioneering research of Ralph Keyes, Fred Shapiro, Barry Popik, and the volunteer editors of Wikiquote.)


  1. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 97-98 and 298, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Eleanor Roosevelt, Quote Page 644, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified with hardcopy)
  3. Website: The Big Apple, Article title: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, Date on website: December 04, 2012, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed on February 10, 2018) link
  4. 1978 March 15, The Surrey Leader, Classified Ads: Help Wanted, Quote Page 10, Column 5, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1957 July 4, Nevada State Journal, In Review: My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Reno, Nevada. (Newspapers_com)
  6. 1981 April 12, The Times Herald, Potpourri by Addie Philko, Quote Page 6D, Column 2, Port Huron, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)
  7. 1983 May 26, The Daily Dispatch, 53 receive diplomas at AlWood High by Mary Otto (Dispatch Correspondent), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Moline, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 1983 June 5, Chula Vista Star-News, Teens: ‘Congratulations, Grad…’ comes in varied guises by Barbara Barnhill (Star-News Staff Writer), Quote Page A10, Column 3, Chula Vista, California. (Newspapers_com)
  9. 1986, Learning Vacations: The All Season Guide to Educational Travel by Gerson G. Eisenberg, Fifth Edition, (Freestanding filler quotation), Quote Page 130, Column 1, Peterson’s Guides, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)
  10. 1986 March 30, The Tennessean, Section: The Tennessean Showcase, (Advertisement), Quote Page 32, Column 2, Nashville, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com)
  11. 1986 December 5, The Fresno Bee, Section: Lifestyle, When Elaine Talks, People Listen by Doug Hoagland, Quote Page C1, Fresno, California. (NewsBank Access World News)
  12. 1987, Proceedings of the Sixty-Sixth Representative Assembly, Los Angeles, California, July 2-5, 1987, Volume 125, Fourth Business Meeting, Friday Afternoon, July 3, 1987, Speaker: Donna Oliver, Quote Page 142, National Education Association, Washington D.C. (Verified with hardcopy)
  13. 1988 January, “Ms.” magazine, Volume 16, Number 7, Women of the Year 1987 by Joanne Edgar, Start Page 41, Quote Page 41, Column 1, Fairfax Publications, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  14. 1988 June 2, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Graduation Milestone Faces Class of 1988 Across Area by Phyllis Brasch Librach (Post-Dispatch Staff), Quote Page 1, St. Louis, Missouri. (NewsBank Access World News)