Writing Prompts on Quotes From Presidents

White House

A president should inspire others and lead by example. Their leadership should motivate people to move forward to make changes for the better no matter how difficult the challenges are. These writing prompts on quotes from presidents will encourage your middle school and high school students to reflect and express their values and opinions.


Writing Prompt 1: The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.
(George Washington) 
Why is that true? Wouldn’t life be easier if our choices were easy ones? Have you ever faced a truly difficult conflict that you ended up handling well? Write about that experience and explain why what Washington said was true.

→ Writing Prompt 2:  On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.
Thomas Jefferson)
Can you think of a time when you “stood like a rock” on a matter of principle? Were you proud that you held your ground for what you thought was right? Write about that experience.

→ Writing Prompt 3: Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.
John Quincy Adams) 
Do you ever wish you could just give up on something? Have you ever persevered even when it was difficult to do so? Write about a time that you almost felt defeated, but decided to push through and succeed at your task.

→ Writing Prompt 4: It’s easier to do a job right, than to explain why you didn’t.
Martin Van Buren)
Have you ever completed a task poorly, or maybe didn’t even complete it at all and later realized how much easier it would have been to just do it correctly the first time? What consequences were there for not completing the task?

→ Writing Prompt 5: Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Abraham Lincoln)
When you suffer through trying times (a family member’s illness, loss of friends, loss of home, parents divorcing, etc), you usually end up stronger as a person in the end. But, according to psychologists, the paradox of power is that the very traits that helps someone to become powerful, often disappear once power is achieved. Can you think of a time when you suffered through some adversity and came out stronger in the end? Or write about someone who achieved power in your inner circle, who then became difficult to be with as a result.

→ Writing Prompt 6: It’s hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried.
Theodore Roosevelt)
Have you ever been afraid to try something new because you feared you would look foolish or not be able to succeed? If you could go back and do it again, would you try the new thing?

→ Writing Prompt 7: There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.
(James Garfield)
Do you know of someone who makes the world a better place just by being a kind or thoughtful or caring person? Write an essay about this inspirational person and explain how they teach the truth by living the way they do.

→ Writing Prompt 8: It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
(Harry S. Truman)
Have you ever done a team building exercise where you had to work with someone who didn’t really do his or her fair share? Is it important for someone’s work to be recognized or should just having done a good job overall be enough? Write an essay stating your point of view.

→ Writing Prompt 9: Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
(Lyndon B. Johnson)
When you make a huge mistake, can you let go of it and look toward the future? Or does having done something wrong weigh on you too much? Write an essay about a time you did something for which you feel regret and explain if you were able to let it go or not.

→ Writing Prompt 10: A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s defeated when he quits.
(Richard M. Nixon)
This is a fancy way of saying, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Have you ever given up on something (a sport or a musical instrument, for example), because it was too hard to do? Do you regret it?

→ Writing Prompt 11: The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.
(Ulysses S. Grant)
Do you have someone who you consider to be only a fair weather friend? Someone who is always there for you when things are going well, but who won’t help you when you need it? Write a letter to this person (as an exercise, not to send!) explaining about a time when you really needed their help and they failed to come through.

→ Writing Prompt 12: Believe you can and you’re half way there.
(Theodore Roosevelt)
Do you agree with that statement? Does all it take for a person to succeed is to have confidence? Write about a time when you did something no one else thought you could.

→ Writing Prompt 13: Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
(Barack Obama)
Do you see things you want to change, but don’t know how to go about it? Write about something that you’d like to see done differently and devise a plan on how to achieve that goal.

→ Writing Prompt 14: Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.
(Joe Biden)
If you fail at something and then give up, then it’s over. But if you keep trying there is a hope that your wishes and dreams can come true. Write about something that you aspire to do, where you know there will be obstacles in your way that you have to overcome.

→ Writing Prompt 15: It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company.
(George Washington)
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you would have been better off alone, rather than to be hanging out with the people you were with? Write about a time you were with a group of people where you knew you shouldn’t stay. Did you get caught up in acting like them or were you true to yourself and not do whatever it was they were doing?

→ Writing Prompt 16: Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
(Dwight D. Eisenhower)
Are plans and planning the same thing? What do you think Eisenhower meant when he said that?

→ Writing Prompt 17: If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories.
(Richard M. Nixon)
Write about a time where you took a risk that made you feel victorious.

→ Writing Prompt 18: The ballot is stronger than the bullet.
(Abraham Lincoln)
Is that true in your opinion? Can voting truly make a difference? Write about a time when a particular vote altered your world personally. It can be a presidential vote or a vote that was taken in your local community.

→ Writing Prompt 19: There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Standing still means not making a decision. Have you ever been sorry about a time when you “stood still?”