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Top 10 Epic Military and Political Quotes in History

VO: Rebecca Brayton

Script written by Michael Wynands

Well... we wouldn’t want to be in a war of words with any of these iconic figures. From iconic prose, to legendary quotes, to sentimental words, these will go down in history. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Epic Military and Political Quotes in History.

Special thanks to our user High dragon slayer for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/top+10+most+famous+quotes+in+history.


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Script written by Michael Wynands

Top 10 Epic Military and Political Quotes in History

Well... we wouldn’t want to be in a war of words with any of these iconic figures. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Epic Military and Political Quotes in History.

For this list, we’re looking at legendary, intimidating or inspiring quotes attributed to real historical political or military figures.

#10: Fear Itself

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The 32nd President of the United States of America is widely considered to be one of the greatest leaders in U.S. history - often compared to Lincoln and Washington. Though he gave many an inspirational speech during his record-breaking four terms in office, the words he spoke during his very first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is… fear itself” reverberates the loudest - wise and powerful words from the man who would lead America through WWII. Of course, they say that behind every strong man is a strong woman, and Eleanor Roosevelt has a quote to match: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Talk about a power couple.

#9: Here I Am

Napoleon Bonaparte
This legendary French leader rose from an artillery office to become the Emperor of France and rule over much of Europe. Of course, he made many an enemy and was ultimately defeated and exiled not once, but twice. When he escaped exile the first time, his forces steadily grew as he made his way across the country. When he reached Grenoble however, he was met by troops assigned to stop his advance. Ever the bold leader, he reportedly stepped in front of them, opened his coat and loudly proclaimed: “If any of you will shoot his Emperor, here I am.” As the story goes, they promptly joined his cause, and Napoleon retook the country (albeit briefly).

#8: Liberty

Patrick Henry
You’ve surely heard this one before. In fact, you’ve likely ironically employed the quote at least once, even if you never knew who first said it. Well, allow us to acquaint you with the man behind the words - Patrick Henry. An American lawyer and founding father, this orator’s Second Virginia Convention speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond was described as “one of the most bold, vehement, and animated pieces of eloquence that had ever been delivered.” His bold proclamation of “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is thought to have swayed the assembled body into contributing sorely needed Virginian troops to the Revolutionary War and, by extension, helped to shape American independence.

#7: To Die For

Martin Luther King Jr.
As arguably the most iconic leader of the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. fundamentally altered the history of America. His leadership inspired a generation to demonstrate in the name of change. His 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech remains one of the most famous and cited public speeches, well… ever. But if there’s one single line attributed to Martin Luther King that sends shivers down one’s spine and gives courage to face insurmountable odds, come what may, it’s this: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Coming from a man who did die for his cause, those words couldn’t possibly carry more weight.

#6: The End of the Beginning

Winston Churchill
Few historical figures can boast the sort of larger-than-life presence that this British politician, military man and Prime Minister brought to a room. He led England through WWII, and though his legacy is not without its major controversies, few can argue against his essential role in winning that war, or his oratory skills. After suffering numerous defeats, in 1942, the British forces triumphed at El Alamein, and in a rousing speech, Churchill proudly declared it to be a turning point in the war. Ever the wordsmith, he proclaimed: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

#5: Go F*** Yourself, Hitler

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
This German World War I general is famous for his East Africa campaign, during which he managed to hold off a force of 300,000 soldiers with just 14,000 troops of his own. Germany lost WWI, but von Lettow-Vorbeck walked away a legend. When Hitler rose to power, the General was opposed to the Fuhrer, who nonetheless offered him a position as ambassador to the Court of St James. Like some other quotes on our list, the exact wording of von Lettow-Vorbeck’s cannot be verified, but it was an extremely strong “no” - with the most popular presumed wording being something that roughly translates to ““go f- yourself”. Take that, Nazis.

#4: Money vs. Honor

Robert Surcouf
Are you ready for a historic burn for the ages? A French privateer in the early 1800s, Surcouf embarked on a number of paid campaigns against the British in the Indian Ocean. As the story goes, the British weren’t impressed with the financial motivations of their foes, and after being defeated by Surcouf, one captured officer aimed to insult the privateer by proclaiming: “You French fight for money while we fight for honor”, to which Surcouf reportedly replied (likely without missing a beat): “Each of us fights for what he lacks most.” Ouch.

#3: Alexander > Darius

Alexander the Great
Establishing one of the greatest and largest empires in human history takes confidence, and this legendary figure had it in spades. After ascending to the throne of Macedon at the age of 20, he embarked on numerous campaigns, conquering many neighboring lands. After having twice defeated the Persians in battle, he received word from the Persian King Darius demanding that his family be released. In response, Alexander wrote: “In future whenever you communicate with me, send to me as king of Asia; do not write to me as an equal, but state your demands to the master of all your possessions.” Now that’s how you declare victory.

#2: It Takes More Than That to Kill a Bull Moose

Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt was truly a different breed. The 26th President of the United States of America, Roosevelt was sick when he was young, and he responded to his limitations by shaping himself into a burly, sporting outdoorsman type. The many stories of his accomplishments are larger-than-life, but even by his own absurd standards of toughness, the speech he delivered on October 14th, 1912 remains a standout. Before he could take the stage, he was shot in the chest. Rather than seek treatment, he began his speech: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a bull moose.” Bad-ass.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “It was for this that I was born!”
Joan of Arc

- “They’ve got us surrounded again, those poor bastards.”
Creighton Abrams

- “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!”
Emiliano Zapata

#1: If…

The Spartans
The Greek city-state of Sparta produced some of the greatest warriors the world has ever seen. Boys would begin their military training at the age of 7, entering service at age 20. In addition to combat skills, they were also taught to be quick-witted with their words. When Philip II of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s dad) sent word of his intention to conquer Sparta, he is quoted as warning them: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” To this, the Spartans supposedly replied with one word… “if”. Philip never conquered Sparta.

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