The writing in Parks and Recreation is so brilliant because not only is it hilariously witty, but it perfectly encapsulates the characters — Ron Swanson is no exception. In fact, some of the show’s most memorable quotes come from his ideas.
For a character who isn’t always open about how he’s feeling, Ron’s offhanded comments often reveal much more about him than they first appear to, whether he’s discussing workplace friendships, the key to being a Swanson, or his favorite foods.
Updated on May 20, 2022 by Stacie Rook: As Amy Poehler told People that she’s forever ready to return to Leslie Knope, a Parks and Rec reboot could be on the cards, and the cast would not be complete without Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson. Over the show’s seven seasons, the depths of Ron’s character were gradually revealed to viewers through his keen observations and decisive approach to all areas of life. Not a mere cynic, Ron could be very caring when it came to those closest to him, even if that care was often delivered with his trademark deadpan.
Secrets Of Motivation
“There Are Only Three Ways To Motivate People: Money, Fear, And Hunger.”
Ron is definitely not a boss who encourages his employees to work harder, but that doesn’t mean he’s ignorant of the ways in which companies, organizations, and other leaders go about motivating people.
In his succinct and blunt fashion, this quote shows that Ron understands that when people are made uneasy, they work harder out of fear. He says this to Chris Traeger, whose own management style focuses on the positive, and when the pair put their respective methods to the test, a stalemate shows both have their pros and cons.
The Truth About Birthdays
“Birthdays Were Invented By Hallmark To Sell Cards.”
Skeptical by nature, Ron has a decidedly negative take on the monetary side of birthdays, which he sees as a ploy dreamt up by huge companies in order to make a profit.
While the idea of Hallmark inventing the concept of birthdays is hilarious, Ron’s true sentiment here — about the commercialization of the simple celebration of aging — does have some truth to it beyond the laughs his words generate.
Trying Your Best
“Give 100%. 110% Is Impossible. Only Idiots Recommend That.”
Although Ron doesn’t put much effort into his job in the Parks department, he doesn’t shy away from effort in general, as proved by his often labor-intensive hobbies.
Where projects that Ron considers worthwhile work are concerned, he advocates for people giving it their all. At the same time, though, he notes that striving for anything past one-hundred percent is futile, a funny commentary on both the limitations of an individual and an oft-used statement of hyperbole.
An Introvert’s Dream
“Great Job, Everyone. The Reception Will Be Held In Each Of Our Individual Houses, Alone.”
While Ron has far more close connections at the end of Parks and Rec than he did at the show’s outset, many aspects of his personality remain unchanged, one of which is his need for solitude and privacy.
A true introvert, Ron makes this declaration after he and Diane get married in the season 6 premiere. While two of Ron’s closest friends, Leslie and April, are present for the ceremony and act as witnesses, he does not wish to extend the celebration. Instead, quiet time is the perfect way for Ron to mark the joyous occasion.
Certain In His Choices
“I Regret Nothing. The End.”
Ron’s actions and beliefs in Parks and Rec follow a strict code of his own making, and while to some this may seem a harsh way to live, it suits Ron’s desires perfectly.
Having punched Councilman Jamm on the night of Leslie and Ben’s wedding, the season 5 episode “Partridge” sees Ron being sued for the deed. Called to the stand, Ron simply declares that he has no regrets, even as he faces down potential punishment, and it’s this steadfast nature that makes Ron so admirable to many.
Advice To Leslie
“Never Half-A*s Two Things. Whole-A*s One Thing.”
Though Ron is known to be a man who doesn’t put too much effort into his job, his apathy doesn’t extend to the things that he loves, or to giving advice to those around him in pursuing their own passions, even if he doesn’t share them.
In the context of this quote — giving advice to Leslie about pursuing her dream of becoming a city councilor in season 4 — Ron shows his considerate side, one that often hides beneath levels of disdain, and is able to re-focus Leslie with a mantra that is both wise and dryly funny.
Camaraderie Through Food
“There Has Never Been A Sadness That Can’t Be Cured By Breakfast Food.”
A scene that combines one of the most thoughtful things Ron has done with one of Parks and Recs‘ iconic foodie moments, this quote, said as Ron is comforting Leslie over Ann and Chris’ departure, is one that shows how Ron’s friendship with Leslie developed over the course of the show.
Not only does this moment bring up the pair’s connection over a mutual love of breakfast food, but it also acts as a reminder that Ron tends to fix things with his friends by sharing the little rituals that are important to him. Plus, it shows (not for the first time) that for Ron, any situation benefits from bacon and eggs.
A Way To Unwind
“Fishing Relaxes Me. It’s Like Yoga, Except I Still Get To Kill Something.”
Ron has a range of passions, from performing as his alter-ego Duke Silver to woodworking, but most of his hobbies make it clear that he’s more suited to life within the Parks and wilderness that he oversees rather than in an office that just discusses them.
When taking the time to immerse himself in nature, Ron remains practical. With fishing as one of his leisure activities, he’s able to both sharpen a survival skill and relax, all without the pesky presence of other people to ruin his experience.
“When People Get Too Chummy With Me, I Like To Call Them By The Wrong Name To Let Them Know I Don’t Really Care About Them.”
Contrary to the way that Ron views himself, one of his best attributes is the way that he cares for others. While it’s true that he doesn’t connect with many people, those who get to know him soon discover that while he is stoic, he isn’t unfeeling.
Even as Ron distances himself from those he deems unworthy of his time, he reveals more about his priorities, and when April learns of this quote’s method and immediately uses it against him, Ron’s expression can’t mask his approval.
Master Of Emotions
“One Rage Every Three Months Is Permitted. Try Not To Hurt Anyone Who Doesn’t Deserve It.”
Although Ron doesn’t shy away from expressing his frustrations, he doesn’t allow such shows of emotion to become too frequent, as noted on the famed Swanson Pyramid of Greatness in “Go Big or Go Home,” as he teaches a boy’s basketball team his guide to success.
With the other entries on the pyramid, like capitalism, haircuts, teamwork, and buffets, Ron breaks down the principles that rule his life, and although typically pre-occupied with the self (selfishness gets its own category), they also show his concern for the correct treatment of others.
A True Realist
“I’d Wish You The Best Of Luck, But I Believe Luck Is A Concept Created By The Weak To Explain Their Failures.”
As somebody that alarmingly started work at the age of nine and never stopped, Ron’s view on the concept of luck is both understandable and funny. Although ignoring luck may prevent him from seeing how some people succeed, it does mean that Ron takes other’s achievements as only the product of their own hard work.
In essence, Ron dismisses anything he deems fanciful or irrational, and proves that he lives his life focused on the tangible rather than the abstract.
A Friendly Reminder
“Don’t Start Chasing Applause And Acclaim. That Way Lies Madness.”
One of TV’s best platonic duos, Ron and Leslie have some of the most interesting conversations of Parks and Rec, whether they’re getting along or disagreeing, and though they are significantly different people, they support one another’s ambitions and understand each other’s quirks.
When Leslie is panicking over a campaign in Pawnee to recall her from her position in the season 6 premiere “London,” Ron is there to remind her of the choices she made to get herself to where she is, and what aspects of the job truly matter to her.
Delighting In Inefficiency
“Normally, If Given The Choice Between Doing Something And Nothing, I’d Choose To Do Nothing. But I Will Do Something If It Helps Someone Else Do Nothing. I’d Work All Night If It Meant Nothing Got Done.”
As an iconic workplace slacker, Ron takes little pleasure in seeing his department run with anything like efficiency, and with April serving as his perfect assistant — making the questionable workplace choice in Parks and Rec to book all his meetings on March 31, a date she thought didn’t exist — he has far less to occupy his time than his colleagues do.
This suits Ron perfectly, with his disdain for large government, but more than simply not working, he enjoys disrupting larger systems of bureaucracy, and whenever a chance to do so comes along, he’s eager to take it.
Moments Of Trickery
“It’s Always A Good Idea To Demonstrate To Your Coworkers That You Are Capable Of Withstanding A Tremendous Amount Of Pain.”
Even though Ron develops and maintains quite a few close relationships throughout his time in the Parks department and beyond, there are some barriers that he keeps intact, with his privacy being the most important, followed closely by the image he presents.
In this moment of trickery, appearing to pull out his own tooth, Ron manages to assert control over how his colleagues see him — and has a fun time doing it.
The Worst Food Offense
“There’s Only One Thing I Hate More Than Lying: Skim Milk. Which Is Water That’s Lying About Being Milk.”
Ron has decisive opinions on the merits of certain food and drinks, and so it only makes sense that he also feels strongly about those he deems unacceptable, including but not limited to salads, frozen yogurt, and of course, skim milk.
Given his affinity for self-sufficiency, Ron’s view on milk that has been altered from its natural state makes great sense, and watching him get worked up about products that deviate from his tastes is always hilarious.
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