"...The Marines don't have that problem..." -

Topic about: NOW... ABOUT THAT FAMOUS MARINES PRESIDENTIAL QUOTE! "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that proble

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January 8th, 2006  

"...The Marines don't have that problem..." info


"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering
if they've made a difference. The Marines don't
have that problem."
-Author Unknown

President Ronald Reagan seems to be universally
credited with the above quote, and the quote
itself is generally shown with Reagan's name
below it.
But, was he the originator of that saying?
No, he was not!
He did speak those words in 1985 (or whenever)
alright, but he was not the first one to do so.
I, personally, know that the above "quote" was
known to Marines long prior to 1985. In fact,
when I heard Reagan use it, I recall that I
jokingly remarked to the effect that he would
likely then be credited with it. But I never
really thought that all reference to the original
speaker of those words would be lost.

Today, a search of the Internet would seem to
indicate Reagan as the original speaker/writer of
those words, and it must appear that way on a
thousand Marines' websites that I've seen! Now
that the saying has found its way into print
together with Reagan's name, the world believes
what it sees is fact, and If the true reference
is still out there somewhere, it is in indeed
I am surprised that I can now find so few
old-time Marines who remember it before Reagan.
Most likely it was first written or voiced by a
Marine--but possibly someone else-- in a
statement, a book or some other writing.

No, I do not think that President Reagan intended
to misrepresent this quote--I do think too many
people erroneously just assume/believe he is the
original author of it.
Not a big thing you say? You're right, but ya
see, I have this big red coffee cup w/a Marine
Corps Emblem (not an ega, mind you--but that's another story) on one side and this "quote" on the
other; the side w/the quote is the side I look
at each time I take a sip--it has begun to annoy
me to the point that I have finally decided to do
something about it!

Have been searching for the original author of
this to no avail, so I would appreciate feedback
from those who read this--hopefully, from some
old salt who remembers the truth (you boots don't
know any better), or better even a specific
reference. Somebody out there must have a better
memory than I do--my thanks in advance.

This could be another myth in development here.
For the record, I don't want to see this become another
legend like the phony Chapultapec, red NCO stripe story,
etc.! (sometimes referred to as a bloodstripe)

Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)


The above information has been on my websites, in one form or another, for several years now (July 2003), my thanks and appreciation to those few (damn few) Marines who have contacted me saying that they too recall this saying, or quotation, as being extant prior to Ronald Reagan's presidency.

There has been little to substantiate my opinion that the subject quote by President Reagan was not his originally, but used from some now unknown previous writer or speaker.

I have contacted various organizations and individuals (mostly on the www) requesting information, but what I am looking for has not been forthcoming.

In addition, I have contacted the Ronald Reagan Library, and also Peggy Noonan who was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.

The Ronald Reagan Library advises that there have been similar inquiries from others prior to mine. Although they point out that they are sure that RR did make the statement in question, they are unable to determine the date and place of such after several attempts searching their records. They suggest that if I can provide them the date and place, then they may be able to check the speechwriter's records to determine if an original author was noted there. Of course, I am unable to provide the name and date, most of the numerous websites indicate only 1985, and in one case 1983.

Peggy Noonan advises that she does not doubt that he may have said it, but she does not remember him doing so. I have never suggested myself that he did not say it; indeed I was one of those who watched President Reagan on TV when he did so, but I do not know just when and where that was--and it is possible he made the remark on more than one occasion.

So, what I thought was going to be a tough job--finding the original author--has developed into an even bigger mystery by reason that it now appears that I cannot even document, from the sources indicated above, when and where Ronald Reagan said it in the first place.

I'm sure that the proliferation on the Net of Marines' websites showing this quotation is due to its just being accepted and repeated without question, on and on, thus reinforcing the belief that it was an original statement by the president.

Again, it is not my intention to detract anything from the president--I am sure he never intended to claim that he was the original author. I have received considerable feedback from Marines--mostly retired SNCOs and Officers--who dislike my trying to show that there was another author. Likewise, many of the above also are unhappy with information I have posted to my websites regarding the legends of the Corps, e.g., regarding the red stripe on the trousers of officers and noncommissioned officers, the birthplace of the Corps, etc. Many of them come right out and say they don't care about the "facts" of such matters, but that "tradition" is their preference. That's fine, I am sure that tradition is not endangered in any way by truth simply because there are now some who have researched and found that some legends are not all we once thought them to be. Let's keep the traditions together with the facts.

All of these items are annotated with clear references from those who have researched these things. In the sole case of the "quotation," I have clearly stated that the above is my opinion only and I am not yet able to provide conclusive proof that I am correct.

Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines
February 17th, 2006  
cool I did not know that but its one of my favorite quotes!
February 21st, 2006  
Chief Bones
History little remembers the roots of quotes that we now take for granted. I daresay you are correct in your beliefs because I can remember hearing that quote from Marine Corps buddies prior to the 1983/1985 time frame.

Considering I never served IN the corps, it's remarkable that I remember the quote.

February 22nd, 2006  
My understanding was Reagan first said it in 83 while visiting the Wounded from the Barracks Bombing. Dunno.
April 29th, 2006  
Italian Guy
Ronald Reagan is even "officially" recognized as author or the quote: My Californian buddy who used to be in the Corps has a USMC tag with the quote and the name of President Reagan under it.
January 16th, 2009  
I really like the quote, I did not know that he was not the originator but with a quote, sometimes it loses impact if it doesn't have an author. When you say "...." -Anonymous, it almost always loses some credibility. It could have been anyone, by giving a name to it gives it background and validity. Many of our favorite quotes, if it were not for the person who said them, would have never been carried on.
January 16th, 2009  
Would it not be possible tha Reagan had said it previous to becoming President? Since he was in radio during WWII.
July 20th, 2012  
I came across this quote with the attribution: "Written Sept. 23, 1983 in a personal note to LCpl Joseph Hickey, the son of a close friend of the President. The Marine was scheduled to deploy to Lebanon."

Guaranteed accurate as any scuttlebutt...

Semper Fi
December 19th, 2012  
I’ve heard a different variation of this quote, by Ronald Reagan. I served with an officer about 4 years ago who was in Korea in the 1980's. He was present for a speech given by Reagan and relayed a very similar quote. I don't remember it exactly but I will try to convey the story he gave.
Reagan met with North Korean leader, I don't know who it was at that time, obviously it was either Kim il-Sung or Kim Jong-il, anyways, they verbally threatened Reagan, Reagan's response was something along the lines of, ok, let's do this, basically saying if they want a fight we'll give them one. Of course, il-Sung or Jong-il backed down after Reagan's confrontational response. Afterwards, Reagan spoke to the troops stationed in South Korea before he went back to the U.S. He told them something similar to that quote:

"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering
if they've made a difference. You people don't
have that problem."

So as it was told to me from somebody present at that speech, this quote was directed at all U.S. military personnel in Korea, not just Marines, because he credited them as being reason North Korea backed down. I know this doesn’t help you find the origin of the quote, I just thought it was interesting that I knew a guy present at a Reagan speech where he used it.