Category Archives: John Quincy Adams

If Your Actions Inspire Others To Dream More, Learn More, Do More and Become More, You Are a Leader

John Quincy Adams? Dolly Parton? Peyton Manning? Anonymous?

johnquincydolly02Dear Quote Investigator: The following quote about leadership appears on my son’s T-Shirt and all over the web, attributed to John Quincy Adams:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

That can’t possibly be right, can it? It sounds so modern, even New Age. And yet we’re being told it even precedes Thoreau and Emerson. Who really said that?

Quote Investigator: This quotation does appear to be modern, and QI has located no evidence that John Quincy Adams spoke or wrote the words. The earliest version of this statement found by QI was printed in a 1997 book titled “The Most Important Thing I Know” that compiled inspirational thoughts from a variety of prominent individuals. An entertainer who built a multi-million-dollar business empire offered the following remark [MIDP]:

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”
Singer; actor

Small changes to the phrasing above yield the popular current version attributed to Adams. QI believes that Parton is the most likely originator of this quotation. If an earlier version of this sentiment influenced Parton then she does not mention it, and QI has not yet found evidence of its existence.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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The Politics of Personal Destruction

Bill Clinton? John Quincy Adams?

Dear Quote Investigator: Reading the news and blogs of today emphasizes the fact that political discourse can be extremely brutal. I was reminded of Bill Clinton’s lament when he discussed his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and said there was a harsh new form of politics based on personal destruction. I know that politics has always been rough, but the politics of recent decades seems different. Was Clinton the first to mention the politics of “personal destruction”?

Quote Investigator: No, Clinton was not the first. That exact term was used more than two-hundred years ago about the arduous ordeal of another politician.

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