Political rallies have already begun, and with conventions and debates right around the corner, voters are beginning to scrutinize the candidates much more closely in regards to what they stand for and the nature of their character.

As I look closer at the candidates, both locally and nationally, I thought it would be productive to see what noted North Dakotans of the past considered important qualities, attributes, beliefs and positions should be for our political leaders.

Please allow me to share some of their comments with you.

ACTION: “Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.” Theodore Roosevelt

ARMY MISUSE: “I would like to think that no American president would ever consider using the military to help him remain in office.” Dick Armey

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts


CHANGE ACCEPTANCE: “The most distinguished hallmark of the American society is and always has been change.” Eric Sevareid

CHARACTER: “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” Theodore Roosevelt

CRITICISM: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” Theodore Roosevelt

COMPASSION: “Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart.” Phil Jackson

CORRUPTION: “In politics, one may remain aloof and become irrelevant or get involved and get corrupted.” Eugene McCarthy

DECENCY: “The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency.” Theodore Roosevelt

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: “If you’re going to have an exchange of ideas, the only thing you can do is to meet people face to face in front of a crowd who may think differently than you do.” Ed Schultz

EQUAL JUSTICE: “No man is above the law and no man is below it.” Theodore Roosevelt

EXPENDITURES: “Three groups spend other people’s money: children, thieves and politicians. All three need supervision.” Dick Armey

GOVERNMENTAL OVERREACH: "When a government takes over a people’s economic life it becomes absolute, and when it has become absolute it destroys the arts, the minds, the liberties and the meaning of the people it governs." Maxwell Anderson

GREED: “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.” Theodore Roosevelt

HEALTH CARE: “I’m one of the people that, when I hear talk about repealing Obamacare, I just want to roll my eyes.” Gary Johnson

HONESTY: “American people simply will not countenance being lied to by their own President.” Pierre Salinger

HUMILITY: “Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one's own virtues or powers are the characteristics of an excellent man.” Satchel Paige

HUMOR: “Next to power without honor, the most dangerous thing in the world is power without humor.” Eric Sevareid

IMMIGRATION: “Immigrants today aren’t any different from immigrants who have come to America throughout our national history. They bring new ideas, an entrepreneurial spirit and close family ties. They place a high value on education, and they are eager to achieve the American Dream. It’s to our benefit to keep our doors open, and to keep enriching our economy and culture.” Dick Armey


  • “Leadership is difficult. It is a lonely responsibility. The best leaders are servants. It is always about others.”
  • “The only leaders qualified to lead are those who have learned to serve others.”
  • “Insecure leaders try to promote themselves.”
  • "Great leaders are always interested in finding the best way and not in having their own way.” Dale Brown

MATURITY: “The difference between the men and the boys in politics is, and always has been, that the boys want to be something, while the men want to do something,” Eric Sevareid


  • “An independent and free media is essential to ensure democracy.” Warren Christopher
  • “I have never quite grasped the worry about the power of the press. After all, it speaks with a thousand voices, in constant dissonance.” Eric Sevareid

MISTAKES: “Politicians take a position that is wrong and they try to defend it. If they would just say I made a mistake, the issue would be over.” Usher Burdick

MORALITY: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” Theodore Roosevelt

NATO: “Expanding NATO and... preventing it from decaying is a historical achievement.” Warren Christopher

RUSSIA: “We should know that Russia is continuously doing their utmost by word and act to destroy the United States.” Usher Burdick

STOCK MARKET: "The market's at the mercy of sentiment, which is very bad.” Charles Payne

VOTING: "To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain." Louis L'Amour

WAR: “War is indefensible on every ground, militarily and economically and diplomatically and also morally.” Eugene McCarthy


  • “Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.” Phil Jackson
  • “Wisdom is essential in a president, the appearance of wisdom will do in a candidate.” Eric Sevareid

Backgrounds of the people quoted:

Maxwell Anderson, a noted playwright, taught school in Minnewaukan and supported socialist causes.

Dick Armey, from Cando, was a Republican member of the U.S. House, from Texas, for 18 years.

Dale Brown, born in Minot, is a College Hall of Fame basketball coach who was encouraged to run for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate as a Republican.

Usher Burdick served 16 years in the U.S. House from North Dakota as a Republican.

Warren Christopher, from Scranton, was U.S. Secretary of State during the administration of Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Phil Jackson, from Williston, was an NBA player, coach and executive.

Gary Johnson, born in Minot, was the Republican governor of New Mexico and was the Libertarian candidate for U.S. President twice.

Louis L'Amour, born in Jamestown, was a noted Western novelist.

Eugene McCarthy, a Mandan teacher, was a Democrat and served for 12 years as a U.S. Senator from Minnesota and is a Democrat.

Satchel Paige pitched for teams in Minot and Bismarck.

Charles Payne, who was stationed at the Minot Air Force Base, has his own show on the conservative Fox Business Network.

Theodore Roosevelt, who ranched near Medora, was a Republican U.S. President from 1901 to 1909.

Pierre Salinger taught school in Dickinson and briefly served as a U.S. Senator, from California, as a Democrat.

Ed Schultz, from Fargo, was a liberal talk show host who was originally a Republican but later became a Democrat.

Eric Sevareid, born in Velva, was a popular news commentator.

ARCHIVE: "Did You Know That" columns

“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your comments, corrections, or suggestions for columns to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.

Curt Eriksmoen, Did You Know That? columnist
Curt Eriksmoen, Did You Know That? columnist