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The Wisdom of Ron Swanson

Tonight sees the series finale of Parks and Recreation. It’s our last hurrah with Pawnee, Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, Li’l Sebastian, and other dear friends. I have only recently discovered Parks and Rec (I’m always late to the party), but I have fallen for the cheerful series. I have fallen hard. While Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope is everything I admire and want to be and I desperately want to see Knope and Peggy Carter take on the world, adoring her was kind of a given. But Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson. He took me by surprise.

Swanson has a gruff exterior that hides a slightly less gruff interior. He doesn’t tolerate bull or hard workers. But. He’s loyal. Once the series found its way after the first season (which everyone warned me about and, oh boy, they were right), Swanson developed along a path that made him sort of like the show’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. An Obi-Wan Kenobi who deeply loves grilled animal flesh and is against government interference. He has uttered many helpful words over the course of seven seasons of Parks and Rec, and these are some of my favorite bits of wisdom from Ron Swanson:


GIF via BuzzFeed

“You choose a thankless job, you can’t be upset when nobody thanks you. Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.”

Ann Perkins may be at the top of Leslie’s BFF list, but her friendship with Ron Swanson is special too. He has a way of telling her how it is – over and over – without making the blunt edge sharp and cold. He doles out advice like this gem from the season six premiere with a kind, grandfatherly (yes, even though they’re close to the same age) approach. He does it from a place of caring and sometimes it makes me cry. Don’t tell Ron that because he thinks crying is only acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.



“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

When Leslie tries to balance her job as Deputy Director of Parks and Rec and campaigning for city council, things start to slip through the cracks. Ron calls her out and urges her to take a sabbatical from the Parks department. He’s absolutely correct that it’s better to do one job exceptionally well rather than stretching yourself out and delivering mediocre results for two jobs. Isn’t he eloquent?


GIF via Balancing Jane

“If any of you need anything at all, too bad. Deal with your problems yourselves like adults.”

Like many of us, Ron has ex problems. He’s plagued by Tammys, and when Tammy 1 hunts him down, he initially freaks out. He goes on the run. But with the help of Leslie, he realizes has to face his problems head on in the season four episode “I Am Leslie Knope.” And when he does that, he reminds everyone else that they’re grown-ups who can handle their own problems. I want to tell this to other adults regularly.

“That is a canvas sheet, the most versatile object known to man. It can be used to make tents, backpacks, shoes, stretchers, sails, tarpaulins, and I suppose, in the most dire of circumstances, it can be a surface on which to make art.”

When Ron takes the Pawnee Rangers out to learn about life, he focuses on the basics. They may not have as much fun as the Pawnee Goddesses, but Ron’s teaching his troops about survival. He gives each ranger a canvas sheet and tells them about its many uses. I don’t know if any of them really listened, but I did.


GIF via BuzzFeed

“You know what makes a good person good? When a good person does something bad, they own up to it. They try to learn something from it and they move on.”

When Leslie is put on trial for her relationship with Ben in the appropriately titled “The Trial of Leslie Knope,” she freaks out. Understandably. She feels bad for bribing a city employee to keep quiet about seeing her and Ben kiss and feels like she should be fired. Ron says no way and imparts the above advice.


GIF via Head Over Feels

“Live your life how you want, but don’t confuse drama with happiness.”

If you thrive on drama, take a step back and look at the price. Ron’s line to Donna in “One in 8,000” might not have really applied to her situation, but I know many people (myself included) who should remember that being truly happy doesn’t equate being boring. Drama can be a crutch we use to fool ourselves.


“Honor: if you need it defined, you don’t have it.”

One of the many kernels of truth in Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness is this bit about honor. Simple, honest, and very Ron Swanson.

What quotes from Ron Swanson have you taken to heart? Head to the comments and share your favorites.

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  1. Erin says:

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; don’t teach a man to fish, and feed yourself. He’s a grown man. Fishing’s not that hard.

  2. Eitan says:

    “the two things I hate most are Liars and Skim Milk, which is just water lying about being milk”

  3. Michael says:

    “Fish, for sport only, not for meat. Fish meat is practically a vegetable.”

  4. Jeff says:

    Best Swanson quote – “So, you talked to Tammy… What’s it like to stare into the eye of Satan’s butthole?”