‘Read my lips,’ ‘a thousand points of light’ and broccoli: memorable lines from the 41st president



“It is my considered judgment that you should now resign. I expect in your lonely, embattled position this would seem to you as an act of disloyalty from one you have supported and helped in so many ways. My own view is that I would now ill serve a president, whose massive accomplishments I will always respect and whose family I love, if I did not now give you my judgment.” — August 1974, speaking to President Richard Nixon shortly before he resigned, when Bush was Republican national chairman.


“And my opponent won't rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I'll say no, and they'll push, and I'll say no, and they'll push again. And I'll say to them: Read my lips. No new taxes.” — Aug. 18, 1988, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

Points of light

“For we are a nation of communities, of thousands and tens of thousands of ethnic, religious, social, business, labor union, neighborhood, regional and other organizations, all of them varied, voluntary and unique. This is America … a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” — Aug. 18, 1988, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.


“We know what works: Freedom works. We know what's right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.” — Jan. 20, 1989, during his inaugural address.

East Germans pour through the Berlin Wall in 1989 as a West Berliner cheers them on from on top.
(Carol Guzy / The Washington Post)


“Look to the very heart of Europe, to Berlin, and you will see a great truth shining brighter with each passing day: The quest for freedom is stronger than steel, more permanent than concrete.” — November 1989, as the Berlin Wall was crumbling.


“I do not like broccoli, and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.” — March 22, 1990.

Foreign and local cameramen crowd in front of a mural of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2002.
(Karim Sahib / AFP)

Saddam Hussein

“Five months ago, Saddam Hussein started this cruel war against Kuwait. Tonight, the battle has been joined. Our goal is not the conquest of Iraq. It is the liberation of Kuwait.” — Jan. 17, 1991, when the first Gulf War began.

Clarence Thomas

“The fact that he is black, a minority, has nothing to do with this. He is the best qualified.” — July 1991, on announcing he had selected federal appeals court judge Clarence Thomas for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Giving back

“I plan to put something back into society, and not at the head table, not always in the glamour, certainly not with a lot of news attention.” — January 1993, days before leaving office.


“To those who say we no longer need a CIA, I say you're nuts. To those who want to dismantle CIA or put it under some other department you're nuts, too. And to those who feel the right to know takes precedence over legitimate classification of documents or over protecting our most precious asset, our people, the same to you. You're nuts, and so's the horse you came in on.” — Sept. 17, 1997, at ceremony marking the 50th birthday of the CIA.

At left, Phil Hartman as President Clinton and Dana Carvey as President George H.W. Bush during Saturday Night Live’s “Presidential Bash 2000.” Right, the former presidents discuss their tour of the Asian tsunami region in March 2005.
(J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo; NBC)

Dana Carvey

“Though I might be tempted to utter a few words of encouragement to anyone who is considering my boy, I will heed the immortal words of Dana Carvey: ‘Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.’” — early 2000, citing a line from the “Saturday Night Live” comedian while attending a nonpartisan event as his son sought the GOP nomination.

Ronald Reagan

“I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life.” — June 11, 2004, at the funeral for former President Ronald Reagan.

Bill Clinton

“Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton, of all people? It's been an eye-opening and enjoyable experience for me to work with him on something truly apolitical.” — Oct. 25, 2005, discussing his work with former rival on tsunami and hurricane relief.