Great presidents possess, or are possessed by, a vision of an ideal America. Their passion is to make sure the ship of state sails on the right course. If that course is indeed right, it is because they have an instinct for the dynamics of history. . . . Great presidents [also] have a deep connection with the needs, anxieties, dreams of the people.
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., "The Ultimate Approval Rating," The New York Times Magazine, December 15, 1996
Who were my heroes among past presidents? Harry Truman. Without a doubt I believe he was the best president in my lifetime. He was honest, bold and set a moral standard. Then I'd say Woodrow Wilson, because he was a basic definer of moral leadership. I'd add Teddy Roosevelt in the environmental field. Then I guess everyone's choice would have to include Lincoln. Also Thomas Jefferson.
Jimmy Carter, seminar discussion, U.S. Air Force Academy, August 26, 1985
Lincoln never ceased to be a common man: that was his source of strength. But he was a common man with genius, a genius for things American, for insight into the common thought, for mastery of the fundamental things of politics . . . for judging men and assessing arguments.
Woodrow Wilson, Mere Literature and Other Essays ( 1896)