Reader’s Digest Trust Poll: The 100 Most Trusted People in America

Reader's Digest teamed up with research firm The Wagner Group to poll over 1,000 Americans and discover which individuals and the ideals they represent have earned our confidence. Here, the surprising winners, paired with one of their inspiring quotes.

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1. Tom Hanks, actor

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images

"But look, I was born in 1956, the peak year for births in US history. I think I'm very representative of many of the thought processes my generation have been through and, by and large, people of my age have had their imprint planted on the consciousness of western society for a long time."

Quotes Sources: Reader's Digest, brainyquotes.com, doctoroz.com, goodreads.com, harpersbazaar.com, imdb.com, prnewswire.com, quotationspage.com, ranker.com, ted.com, thinkexist.com, usatoday.com, The Guardian, "A Hand to Guide Me" by Denzel Washington, womansday.com, New York Times, Federal News Service, The Telegraph, "Business @ The Speed of Thought" by Bill Gates, The Times Colonist, Africa News, Hollywood Reporter, nobelprize.org, economicprincipals.com, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School commencement speech, Los Angeles Times, Michigan Daily, Buffalo News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Canwest News Service, Pacific Free Press, University of Maryland press office, "Quiet Strength" by Tony Dungy, Chicago Daily Herald, AP, Harper's Bazaar, Judge Judy, "Medical Myths That Can Kill You" by Nancy Snyderman, Redbook, "It Worked For Me" by Colin Powell, nancybrinker.com, cosmopolitan.com, IMDB.com, "Best Advice I Ever Got" by Katie Couric, Stanford Daily, Judge Joe Brown, "Through His Eyes" by Tim Tebow, "America's Supreme Court: Making Democracy Work" by Steven Breyer, Rolling Stone, "Tell Me the Truth, Doctor" by Richard Besser, speech at American Bar Association, Sunday Business Post, ac360.blogs.cnn.com, news2008central.net, ebonytower.tumblr.com, "My Beloved World" by Sonia Sotoyor, @TheRock on Twitter, Parade, Vanity Fair, CNN/Time, Agence France Press, "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom" by Christiane Northrup, NPR, huffingtonpost.com, darkhorizons.com, Washington Post, Obama's 2008 address to the DNC in Denver, speech at Chapman Law School, "Unto the Hills" by Billy Graham, "Condi: The Life of a Steel Magnolia" by Condoleeza Rice, Newhouse News Service, Warren Buffet's 2011 Annual Letter, drweil.com, speech at Golden Rasberry Awards, Justice Kagan's congressional confirmation hearing, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Faust speech at Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. 

2. Sandra Bullock, actor

John Shearer/WireImage

"I've made mistakes, and I know why I made them, but I made that choice. Nobody's ever made a choice for me."

3. Denzel Washington, actor

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

"At the end of the day, it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished. It's about what you've done with those accomplishments. Its about who you've lifted up, who you've made better. It's about what you've given back."

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4. Meryl Streep, actor

Jude Domski/WireImage

"I have always regarded myself as the pillar of my life."

5. Maya Angelou, American studies professor

Jemal Countess/WireImage

"A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

6. Steven Spielberg, director

Steve Granitz/WireImage

"I dream for a living."

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7. Bill Gates, Microsoft cofounder

Paul Morigi/Getty Images

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."

8. Alex Trebek, host, Jeopardy!

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ATI

"I’m curious about everything—even things that don’t interest me."

9. Melinda Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Mathew Imaging/WireImage

"Our desire to bring every good thing to our children is a force for good throughout the world. It’s what propels socieites forward."

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10. Julia Roberts, actor

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

"You can be true to the character all you want but you've got to go home with yourself."

11. Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD, Nobel Prize–winning chemist

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

"I have a great deal of enthusiasm for whatever I am doing that seems to be infectious... I once looked up the derivation of the word enthusiasm—it comes from the Greek and apparently a literal derivation means "a god within"—and yes, enthusiasm is just something bubbling up from inside you and its a wonderful thing to bring to your work because if you bring that kind of enthusiasm to your work it feels like play."

12. Robin Roberts, host, Good Morning America

Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

"All [my parents] wanted was for us to be trustworthy citizens. And there's a responsibility that goes with that, and it's not something I take lightly."

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13. Clint Eastwood, director

JOE KLAMAR/AFP/GettyImages

"If a person doesn't change, there's something really wrong with him."

14. Brian K. Kobilka, MD, Nobel Prize–winning chemist

Kimberly White/Getty Images

"If you're really interested in something enough, you just keep working on it..."

15. Lloyd Shapley, Nobel Prize–winning economist

UC Irvine via Getty Images

"No! No!, that can be done much more simply!"

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16. Mehmet Oz, MD, host, The Dr. Oz Show

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

"Let people surprise you."

17. Sanjay Gupta, MD, host, Sanjay Gupta, MD

Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

"Eating, not smoking, has become the leading cause of preventable death."

18. Ellen DeGeneres host, The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Kevin Winter/WireImage

"People always ask me, 'Were you funny as a child?' Well, no, I was an accountant."

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19. Michelle Obama, First Lady

Chuck Kennedy/The White House via Getty Images

"You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own."

20. Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor, MIT

Ulf Andersen/ Getty Images

"We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas."

21. Tony Dungy football coach, retired

Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

"Things will go wrong at times. You can't always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better."

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22. Regina Benjamin, MD, U.S. surgeon general

Brad Barket/Getty Images

"We can't look at health in isolation. It's not just in the doctor's office. It's got to be where we live, we work, we play, we pray. If you have a healthy community, you have a healthy individual."

23. Madeleine K. Albright, diplomacy professor, Georgetown

Michael Kovac/WireImage

"There really is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."


24. Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President

GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images

"America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense… human rights invented America."

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25. Diane Sawyer, anchor, ABC World News

Rob Kim/WireImage

"When you come back from overseas, and you see the immensity of the suffering, and you realize that you're just one story, and that no matter how you try to fire it like a rocket into the world, it is not going to change what they'll wake up to tomorrow. It can take days before you rally emotionally."

26. Travis Stork, MD cohost, The Doctors

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

"The health impact of obesity is one of our generation's greatest challenges and one that we simply cannot ignore," says Travis Stork, an emergency room physician and co-host of The Doctors. "Our goal here is to teach people to fundamentally reconsider their relationship with food and to begin eating as though their life depended on it."

27. Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos

Jason Merritt/Getty Images For DirecTV

"What drives me on that is a quote my dad showed me in high school by Chuck Noll, who said, 'Pressure is something you feel only when you don't know what the hell you're doing.'"

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28. Judith Sheindlin, host, Judge Judy

Mirek Towski/FilmMagic

"I love the truth. If you don't tell me the truth, you're gonna be eating your shoes."

29. Brian Williams, host, NBC Nightly News

Ray Tamarra/FilmMagic

"Believe in love at first sight... it's as real as anything else in this life."

30. Nancy Snyderman, MD, correspondent, Today

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

"I don’t know about you, but I like it here. Sure, life can get complicated, hard to get through, and it’s not always fun, but I don’t want to be shown the door anytime soon. If there are ways I can enhance my health and longevity with healthy habits, if there are appropriate screening measures for my age group, if there are new lifesaving treatments I can access, then I want to know about them so that I can stay around and be kicking up my heels when I’m ninety."

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31. Rachael Ray, host, Rachael Ray Show

Michael Stewart/FilmMagic

"It's continuously humbling to work hard, you know? As long as you've got a good work ethic and a sense of humor, I don't think anybody can become too much of an egoist under those circumstances."

32. Colin Powell, former secretary of state

Charles Norfleet/Getty Images

"Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

33. Nancy Brinker, founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer org

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

"Suzy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 and died in 1980. By her side through three brutal years of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I promised my sister I’d do everything I could to stop the heartless progression and social stigma of this disease, even if it took the rest of my life. And it has."

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34. Barbara Walters, cohost, The View

Cindy Ord/Getty Images

"I don't know about you, but I can never get enough David Letterman."

35. Johnny Depp, actor

Indigo/Getty Images

"If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn't have fallen for the second."

36. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

"Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation."

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37. Katie Couric, host, Katie

Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

"A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that's not what boats are built for."

38. Alvin E. Roth, Nobel Prize–winning economist

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"I went into operations research with the idea of fixing things up so they work better."

39. Joe Brown, host, Judge Joe Brown

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

"Been there, seen that, done that, heard that a lot."

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40. Tim Tebow, NFL quarterback

Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

"Following the crowd is not a winning approach to life. In the end it’s a loser’s game, because we never become who God created us to be by trying to be like everybody else."

41. Muhammad Ali, world champion boxer

Allen Berezovsky/FilmMagic

"Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill."

42. George Lucas, director

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

"No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try." -Yoda, from Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, created and produced by George Lucas

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43. Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court justice

Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images

"Specifically, [the Court] can and should interpret the Constitution in a way that works for the people of America today."

44. John G. Roberts, Jr., Supreme Court justice

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

"I do think the chief justice has a particular obligation to try to achieve consensus consistent with everyone's individual oath to uphold the Constitution, and that's would certainly be a priority for me."

45. Ben Affleck, director

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

"I find forgiveness to be really healthy."

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46. Whoopi Goldberg, cohost, The View

Michael Stewart/WireImage

"We're here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark."

47. Richard Besser, MD, correspondent, Good Morning America

Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

"I think many of us long for the days when we had a relationship with a doctor who really knew us, whom we could trust."

48. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, recipient, Presidential Citizens Medal

Jeffrey Ufberg/WireImage

"When you experience the human tragedy of World War II that claimed the lives of millions and millions of people, including my own family at Auschwitz and Terezin in the Shoah, it really shapes the way you look at the world. ... But if you survive, you say to yourself: O.K., I survived for a purpose. You have to pay back."

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49. Anthony M. Kennedy, Supreme Court justice

Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

"The case for freedom, the case for our constitutional principles the case for our heritage has to be made anew in each generation. The work of freedom is never done."

50. Anderson Cooper, host, CNN

Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

"Be honest about what you see, get out of the way and let the story reveal itself."

51. Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

"Every moment wasted looking back, keeps us from moving forward."

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52. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director, Harvard’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute

Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

"The first step toward tolerance is respect and the first step toward respect is knowledge."

53. Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court justice

Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic

"Experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward."

54. Dwayne Johnson, actor

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

"There is 100% no substitute for hard work. Straight up."

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55. Phil Mickelson, professional golfer

Warren Little/Getty Images

"My family has reduced the effect of my career on my self-esteem. When I'm with them, they make me feel special regardless of how I play."

56. Christiane Amanpour, journalist, CNN

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

"You give all sides a fair hearing, and you also make it absolutely clear what the facts are and what the truth is... At least for me, journalism isn't about 'on the one hand... on the other.' In the end it's about accountability—holding power accountable."

57. George Stephanopoulos, cohost, Good Morning America

Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

"People have felt more removed from the political system and I think that that is unfortunate, because I don't believe it's true. The fact is that every Decision does have an impact."

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58. Eli Manning, quarterback, New York Giants

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

"My favorite football memory isn't beating Florida or winning the bowl game... My favorite memories are of playing football with my brothers and my dad in the front yard when I was younger."

59. Oprah Winfrey, founder, OWN Network

Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you."

60. Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Supreme Court justice

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"A judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case and a judge doesn't have a client. The judge's only obligation, and it's a solemn obligation, is to the rule of law. And what that means, in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires."

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61. Drew Gilpin Faust, president, Harvard University

Paul Marotta/Getty Images

"Look to the past to help create the future. Look to science and to poetry. Combine innovation and interpretation. We need the best of both. And it is universities that best provide them."

62. Elena Kagan, Supreme Court justice

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"You shouldn't want a judge who will sit at this table and who will tell you that she will reverse a decision without listening to arguments and without reading briefs and without talking to colleagues."

63. Scott Pelley, anchor, CBS Evening News

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"I don't think that young journalists realize how similar their job is to the job of a scientist. It's a very similar sort of thing: you get down to the original information and you test it, and you test it again, and you peer review it, and you test it again—it's very much like science. Science doesn't care, by and large, what the answers are. It's only interested in getting the right answer. And journalism should be very much that way."

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64. Adam Sandler, comedian

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

"I do love the films I've done in the past. I work hard in my movies and my friends work hard and we're trying to make people laugh and I'm very proud of that."

65. Barack Obama, President of the United States

John W. Adkisson/Getty Images

"A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things."

66. Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice

Paul Morigi/WireImage

"If you're going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you're not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you're probably doing something wrong."

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67. Billy Graham, evangelical minister

Jemal Countess/WireImage

"I'm an optimist. I've read the last page of the Bible."

68. Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Prejudice and bigotry are brought down... by the sheer force of determination of individuals to succeed and the refusal of a human being to let prejudice define the parameters of the possible."

69. Pat Sajak, host, Wheel of Fortune

Paul Redmond/FilmMagic

"Sometimes you just stumble into something that works, and here I am a quarter of a century later."

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70. Christiane Northrup, MD, author, The Wisdom of Menopause

Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for USANA

"We are born with this inner guidance, which comes in the form of the emotions and desires that lead us toward things (including thoughts) that feel good and are good for us, and away from things that feel bad and are bad for us."

71. Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

"We are not natively smarter than we were when our country was founded nor do we work harder. But look around you and see a world beyond the dreams of any colonial citizen. Now, as in 1776, 1861, 1932, and 1941, America's best days lie ahead."

72. Steve Harvey, host, Steve Harvey Show

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

"My dad, who was a construction worker and a coal miner in West Virginia, used to say, 'Son, talk and listen to everybody. Even listen to a fool, because fools are good people to know. If you don't learn anything else, you'll learn what not to do from a fool. That's as good as knowing what to do. So let a fool talk.'"

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73. Kelly Ripa, cohost, Live with Kelly & Michael

Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic

"I'd rather not have a moment when I'm known for my looks; being funny and interesting lasts longer."

74. Halle Berry, actor

Steve Granitz/WireImage

"When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner."

75. Andrew Weil, MD, author, Spontaneous Healing

Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

"A less formal practice—and one that I follow—is to devote a few moments of my morning meditation session to feel and silently give thanks for all of the good things in my life."

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76. Francis Ford Coppola, director

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

"I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made movies were magicians."

77. Ben Stiller, actor

Gary Gershoff/WireImage

"I'm always willing to endure humiliation on behalf of my characters."

78. Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well."

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79. Tim Burton, director

Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage

"I've always been more comfortable making my decisions from the subconscious level, or more emotionally, because I find it more truthful to me ... I'm more wary of my intellectual mind, of becoming delusional if I think of it too much."

80. Leonardo DiCaprio, actor

Jun Sato/WireImage

"If you can do what you do best and be happy, you're further along in life than most people."

81. Ron Clark, founder, The Ron Clark Academy

Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

"Learning from our mistakes and holding on to our memories helps us become deeper individuals with a better sense of who we are and how we choose to live our lives."

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82. Susan Love, MD, author, Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book

Getty Images for Avon Foundation

"We can be the generation that stops breast cancer, but it will take all of us, an Army of women!"

83. Michael Pollan, journalism professor, UC Berkeley

Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

84. Cameron Diaz, actor

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"Your regrets aren't what you did, but what you didn't do. So I take every opportunity."

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85. Savannah Guthrie, cohost, TODAY

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

"I would never put my job before my family."

86. Alex Gorsky, CEO, Johnson & Johnson

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

"There's a general attitude in the military of trying to do everything possible to accomplish the mission. We have the same kind of commitment to improving patients' lives."

87. Matt Lauer, cohost, TODAY

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

"I'm not a guy who complains. I love this job, I really do."

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88. Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court justice

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot."

89. Tina Fey, comedian

Rob Kim/FilmMagic

"Don't waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you're the boss. Or they won't. Who cares? Do your thing, and don't care if they like it."

90. David Drew Pinsky, MD, host, Dr. Drew on Call

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

"Live with integrity and a clear sense of right and wrong. Consider consequences. Listen to the inner voice of your instinct as carefully as a doctor checks your heartbeat."

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91. Michael Strahan, cohost, Live with Kelly & Michael

Jennifer Graylock/FilmMagic

"This is who I am. I'm not perfect. I don't want to try to be perfect."

92. Deepak Chopra, MD, alternative medicine practitioner

Photo © David Corio

"Always go with your passions. Never ask yourself it it's realistic or not."

93. Ken Powell, CEO, General Mills

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"The question becomes 'what really needs to be changed?' when you've been embedded in it so long."

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94. Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense, it is all about potential."

95. Walter Mossberg, tech columnist, Wall Street Journal

Sandy Carson/Corbis

"Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault."

96. Phil McGraw, host, Dr. Phil

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

"You cannot be who and what you are unless you have a lifestyle, both internally and externally, that is designed to support that definition of self."

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97. Steve Forbes, CEO, Forbes Media

Steve Mack/Getty Images for NYC Media Group

"The essence of the American dream is the understanding that we are here on this earth and in this land for a higher purpose: to discover and develop to the fullest our God-given potential. Anything that stands in the way of the dream, we must fight. Anything that enhances the dream, we must support."

98. Maureen Dowd, columnist, New York Times

Robin Platzer/FilmMagic

"The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for."

99. Paul Krugman, columnist, New York Times

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

"The goal in the end is not to win elections. The goal is to change society."

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100. Shepard Smith, anchor, The Fox Report

Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage

"I'm a journalist, I run to the fire, that's what we do."


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