As July 4 approaches, some Americans are having a hard time mustering up any truly patriotic feelings. The division that this country is experiencing right now is like nothing most of us have experienced in our lifetimes, and reality is starting to feel like something we read about in a history book. To remind yourself that there's always hope, sometimes it helps to look to the wise words of others for inspiration. That's why these patriotic 4th of July quotes from former first ladies are worth reading: These women have seen a side of our country's inner workings that few people ever do, and their perspective is endlessly valuable.
While some president's wives had political ambitions of their own, others were called upon to embrace the role of first lady even though they never aspired to live in the White House. But regardless of how they arrived in Washington, all of these women accepted their duties with grace and enthusiasm, choosing causes to champion and finding ways to use their newfound position of power to help their fellow citizens.
Of course, it's a daunting task, and one that probably every first lady wanted to run away from at some point or another. Raising a family under a microscope while supporting your husband in one of the most dangerous, high-pressure jobs in the world would get to anybody. But as Barbara Bush was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times, if somebody doesn't like being first lady "then there's something wrong with her. It's a big opportunity." Bush also raved about her life as first lady after her first 100 days in the White House, saying:
"I have really loved every minute of it. Of course, I have always been one to think that you should love your life."
It seems that all of these former first ladies appreciated and respected their lives, too... and their country.
1. 'The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom' — Lady Bird Johnson
The wife of 36th president Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson supported the "war on poverty" and became a women's rights activist, according to Biography.
2. 'All the changes in the world, for good or evil, were brought about by words' — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jackie O was more than just a style icon. The beloved first lady had many valuable insights to share as well; the above, for example, speaks to the power of the written words this country was founded upon and the responsibility of our leaders to choose their words carefully.
3. 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams' — Eleanor Roosevelt
This oft-repeated quote (which you've probably seen on a pillow or poster in somebody's dorm room) courtesy of the First Lady from 1933 to 1945 truly represents the spirit of what this country could be.
4. 'A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be' — Rosalynn Carter
Former President Jimmy Carter's wife during his term from 1977 to 1981, Rosalynn served as honorary chair on the Active Honorary Chair President's Commission on Mental Health and also worked for the welfare of senior citizens.
5. 'I don't think that's healthy for the country when anyone thinks their morals are better than anyone else's' — Barbara Bush
When Barbara Bush died earlier this year at the age of 92, a nation mourned for the wife and mother who spoke of tolerance and acceptance as essential to a healthy democracy.
6. 'Our nation has not always lived up to its ideals — yet those ideals have never ceased to guide us. They expose our flaws, and lead us to mend them. We are the beneficiaries of the work of the generations before us, and it is each generation's responsibility to continue that work' — Laura Bush
In a speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Laura Bush was admirably candid about the work our country has left to do, and why we have to do it.
7. 'Caring for others creates the spirit of a nation' — Pat Nixon
It's safe to say the wife of Richard Nixon probably had quite a lot to deal with, but she still believed that America could be a caring nation.
8. 'Our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are,' — Michelle Obama
In her last formal speech before President Obama left office, Michelle Obama spoke the above words in "an impassioned case for embracing diversity," as Newsweek called it.
9. 'We believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone, for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people and for people with disabilities. For everyone' — Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton's entire concession speech was deeply, authentically patriotic, but the above line was a clear standout, as ELLE reported. Indeed, her words represent the hope we cling to in these increasingly dark times.