There is still a large following for The West Wing and it remains relevant today even though its first episodes aired over 20 years ago. The show follows the staff of the current President of the United States (played by Martin Sheen) as they live their daily lives and deal with the inner workings of the White House.
The plotlines of the show were engaging and intricate and dialogue from Aaron Sorkin was biting and clever. Let’s revisit some of the show’s iconic quotes that will stick with fans forever!
Updated on November 23rd, 2020 by Theo Kogod: The cast and characters of The West Wing have remained present in people’s minds, with events like the HBO Special to encourage people to vote bringing back all the nostalgia. With interest regarding the inner workings of the White House at an all-time high, now is as good a time as ever to look back at some truly timeless quotes from this classic series.
15 “I Drink From The Keg Of Glory. Bring Me The Finest Muffins And Bagels In All The Land.” – Josh Lyman
Any fan of The West Wing has certainly quoted this Josh Lyman line after a victory, no matter how small.
It’s a fun and cheeky line that playfully shows Josh’s ego as he gloats around the office after a big win. It’s a funny line and conveys confidence but in a braggadocious and playful way that might make your friends or co-workers roll their eyes, but leave them laughing in the end.
14 “Some Of Them Will Laugh And Most Of Them Won’t Care But For Some, They Might Honestly See That It’s About Going To The Blackboard And Raising Your Hand.” – C.J. Cregg
C.J. Cregg is one of the most popular characters of the series and she delivers her fair share of badass lines but this line strikes a different chord. This quote gets at the emotional heart of a student’s life in the education system.
Teachers say don’t be afraid to ask questions, but it’s terrifying to students who are afraid of asking a dumb question and being made fun of giving a wrong answer. C.J. conveys that the most important part of being a student is asking questions and trying, even if you get a wrong answer, and students shouldn’t be paralyzed in the classroom. It’s a good quote and a great sentiment to remember for students and people in the workplace alike.
13 “You’re A Smart, Savvy Woman, Who Could Easily Consider World Domination As A Next Career Move” – Charlie Young
Charlie tells this line to C.J. and the audience knows it’s true. It’s a fun line and moment between the two and a very in-character moment too.
President Bartlet’s staff may squabble and argue, but at the heart of it all, there’s respect, understanding, and genuine care amongst the team. It’s also a great line to inspire and support your badass female friends!
12 “It’s Not The Battles We Lose That Bother Me, It’s The Ones We Don’t Suit Up For.” – Toby Ziegler
The same sentiment as, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” Toby shows his disappointment when the polling numbers for reelection seem to be more important than the work they’re currently doing. The staff is told that they need to be paying attention to the polling numbers, discuss every decision and how it will play out, and agree that the decision is made on what will have the best voter reaction instead of what they feel is morally right given their previous campaign platform.
The line eventually persuades President Bartlet that they should be continuing the mission of their current presidency instead of watering down their approach to get reelected.
11 “If You Were In An Accident I Wouldn’t Stop For Red Lights.” – Donna Moss
For years Josh has been celebrating his and Donna’s anniversary of when she started working for him and every year it irks Donna, which only eggs Josh on. Donna finally reveals why she hates the day so much. She had been in a car accident and wound up in the hospital, called her boyfriend, and he stopped for a beer on his way to see her.
Josh responds by saying he would never stop for a beer if she was hurt, and Donna responds with this line. It’s a sweet and intimate moment between the two, showing their care and affection, and it’s a stark reminder to tell your loved ones you love them.
10 “Never Doubt That A Small Group Of Thoughtful Individuals Can Change The World.” – President Bartlet
President Bartlet tells one of his speechwriters, Will, this line and it hits hard as Will responds, finishing the quote by saying, “because it’s the only thing that ever has.”
This is a quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead, but it carries a certain weight when quoted in the show and fits with the dialogue seamlessly. It’s an inspiring line that says that every single person has the power to enact positive change in their world.
9 “We Will Do What Is Hard. We Will Achieve What Is Great. This Is A Time For American Heroes And We Reach For The Stars.” – President Bartlet
President Bartlet passionately delivers this line during a speech attempting to rally the American people after a tragedy.
The speech sounds like something Captain America would say to rally the troops and instead, it’s Martin Sheen trying to calm the nation and keep hopes high after a devastating attack on Americans and amongst economic woes and escalating foreign affairs.
8 “Every Time We Think We’ve Measured Our Capacity To Reach A Challenge, We Look Up And We’re Reminded That Capacity May Well Be Limitless.” – President Bartlet
This line also appears in the same speech as the previous entry. Things can be rough and challenging and all hope can be lost, especially for these characters that have to deal with highly intense problems and stress levels unseen by most, but there can still be light even if all seems dark.
It’s a good and inspiring line for them to remember, but also a good line for everyone to remember. Even if all hope seems lost, we can still continue on, and there will always be people who keep fighting.
7 “This Guy’s Walkin’ Down A Street When He Falls Into A Hole. The Walls Are So Steep He Can’t Get Out.” – Leo McGarry
A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole; can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey, Joe, it’s me. Can ya help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are ya stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”
Leo tells this story to Josh when Josh is worried about his job. He tells him that as long as he has a job, Josh has a job. It’s a true moment of friendship as Leo tells Josh that he understands where he’s at and is always willing to help him no matter what.
6 “I was gone for forty-five minutes. They were all American when I left.” – President Bartlet
One of the funniest subplots occurs in the episode “Dead Irish Writers,” when Donna Moss learns that her security clearance is being revoked. Apparently, the town she was born in is in a disputed area at the US border to Canada, so her citizenship has been called into question.
After Donna gives the First Lady Abbey Bartlet some good advice, Abbey has the band at a White House reception play “O Canada.” At roughly the same time, President Bartlet returns to the party to hear the Canadian National Anthem playing in the White House. After his outburst about everyone “being Americans when [he] left,” Donna looks at him and says she knows just how he feels.
5 “Obviously, Lionel Tribbey is a brilliant lawyer who we cannot live without, or there would be very little reason not to put him in prison.” – President Bartlet
Lionel Tribbey is a small character in the grand scheme of things, only appearing in one episode. That said, he delivers a truly unforgettable performance as the White House Counsel, storming through the halls of the West Wing while screaming and brandishing a cricket bat, his rants interspersed by passionately quoting Gilbert and Sullivan.
When he interrupts President Bartlet in the Oval Office in front of a large group of tourists, he even goes so far as insulting the President and screaming about “blonde and leggy fascists” being hired. Bartlet politely tries to explain away Lionel’s egregiously inappropriate comments.
4 “Nature is to be protected from. Nature, like a woman, will seduce you with its sights, and its scents, and its touch. And then it breaks your ankle—also like a woman.” – Oliver Babish
If Lionel Tribbey is a small character, Oliver Babish has only a slightly bigger role as the White House Counsel who replaces Tribbey (making him the fifth person to hold that position in just three years).
Babish helps the Bartlets manage a scandal surrounding the President’s decision to conceal his multiple sclerosis. He is less than enthused about the First Lady’s decision to hiking and offers his thoughts on nature after Abbey Bartlet returns from her hike in a cast.
3 “I will wait in the tall grass for you, Senator.” – Cliff Caley
When Leo McGarry is brought before a Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate whether or not he broke the law to help President Bartlet to conceal his multiple sclerosis, one of the senators tries to expose embarrassing secrets about McGarry’s past struggles with addiction.
Cliff Caley dresses down his fellow Republican senator, outraged by this dirty tactic. After threatening to wait in the tall grass, Caley gives his reason, accusing the other senator of “killing the party.”
2 “Let the poets write that he had the tools for greatness, but the voices of his better angels were shouted down by his obsessive need to win.” – Toby Ziegler
Toby has always been a lover of flowery language. Considering that he shouts these words at the Commander and Chief after the President cheats at basketball, the line might come off as a lot of hot air.
However, Bartlet asks Toby about it later in the same episode. While the whole line is a bit much to quote, “the voices of his better angels were shouted down” is a very quotable line that fans love to cite.
1 “What’s Next?” – President Bartlet
The President’s frequently used phrase means that he’s ready for whatever lies ahead. We’ve solved this, we’ve covered that, now what do we need to tackle next?
It’s a motivational quote that his team learns to understand that these two words mean he’s ready to move on to the next task and it keeps the momentum of the team going.
NEXT: West Wing: 10 Hidden Details About The Characters
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