Some ship officers stand out as much for their knowledge and experience as for their distinguishing personal qualities. Seven such traits, in my view, are the most important. They define the quintessential officer: integrity, confidence, humility, self-control, patience, fortitude, and empathy. What school can teach these things? I hope the following quotes will inspire the men and women who now wear the officer’s stripe and insignia and the cadets striving to join their ranks.


A little integrity is better than any career.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life (1871)

I am sure that in estimating every man’s value either in private or public life, a pure integrity is the quality we take first into calculation, and that learning and talents are only the second.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Garland Jefferson (June 15, 1792)

Though a hundred crooked paths may conduct to a temporary success, the one plain and straight path of public and private virtue can alone lead to a pure and lasting fame and the blessings of posterity.

— Edward Everett, as quoted in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honourable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B. C. – 43 B. C.), De Inventione

Life for both sexes — and I looked at them, shouldering their way along the pavement — is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle.

— Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1935)

As is our confidence, so is our capacity.

— William Hazlitt, Characteristics (1823).


There are two things that men should never weary of, goodness and humility; we get none too much of them in this rough world among cold, proud people…

— Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (1886)

Perfection is impossible without humility. Why should I strive for perfection, if I am already good enough?

— Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, translation by P. Sekirin (1997).

Who can compare with humility? — It is set in goodness.

— Sumerian proverb, Collection IX at The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, 3rd millennium BCE


Conquer thyself. Till thou hast done this, thou art but a slave; for it is almost as well to be subjected to another’s appetite as to thine own.

— Sir Richard Francis Burton, as quoted in The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations, originally compiled by Tryon Edwards (1927)

The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual strength, and feel that they can learn of him and rely upon him. The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Even the ordinary trader will find his business prosperity increase as he develops a greater self-control and equanimity, for people will always prefer to deal with a man whose demeanor is strongly equable

— James Allen, As a Man Thinketh (1903)


There is no path too long for one who walks slowly and without hurrying: there are no advantages too remote for one who prepares for them by patience.

— La Bruyère, Les Caractères (1688)

He that can have patience can have what he will.

— Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (June 1736)

Be patient and endure; this grief will benefit you some day.

— Ovid, Amorum (16 BC)

Fortitude (courage in pain or adversity)

Courage is the price that Life exacts
for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter
joy can hear
The sound of wings.

— Amelia Earhart, Courage (1927)

Either life entails courage, or it ceases to be life.

— E.M. Forster, Pharos and Pharillon, “The Poetry of C.P. Cavafy” (1923)

Fortitude is a deliberate encountering of danger and enduring of labour. Its parts are magnificence, confidence, patience, and perseverance. Magnificence is the consideration and management of important and sublime matters with a certain wide seeing and splendid determination of mind. Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honourable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself. Patience is a voluntary and sustained endurance, for the sake of what is honourable or advantageous, of difficult and painful labours. Perseverance is a steady and lasting persistence in a well-considered principle.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Inventione (On Invention), translation by C.D. Yonge (1853)


Adapt thy self to those things which are destined for you by providence, and love those men, with whom it is your lot to live, and that with a sincere affection.

— Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, translation by Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (2008)

I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.

— Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’, Leaves of Grass (1855)

Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

— William Blake, ‘On Another’s Sorrow’, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (1901)

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