Theodore Roosevelt

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The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.
Thomas Carlyle
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I have always been fond of the West African proverb "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (1858-10-271919-01-06), also known as T.R. or Teddy, was the 26th President of the United States (1901–1909).

Sourced

I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life.
  • The light has gone out of my life.
    • Entry in Roosevelt's diary after which he put a large X on 1884-02-14, the day in which both his mother and wife died within hours of each other.
  • There is a curse on this house.
    • Theodore repeating what his brother, Elliot Roosevelt said when Theodore reached his home in New York City to find both mother and wife dying on the evening of 1884-02-13. In this same house their father, the elder Roosevelt had also died a slow and agonizing death on 1878-02-09 at the age of 46 from stomach cancer.
  • Gentlemen: you have now reached the last point. If anyone of you doesn’t mean business let him say so now. An hour from now will be too late to back out. Once in, you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to perform without flinching whatever duty is assigned you, regardless of the difficulty or the danger attending it. If it is garrison duty, you must attend to it. If it is meeting fever, you must be willing. If it is the closest kind of fighting, anxious for it. You must know how to ride, how to shoot, how to live in the open. Absolute obedience to every command is your first lesson. No matter what comes you mustn’t squeal. Think it over — all of you. If any man wishes to withdraw he will be gladly excused, for others are ready to take his place.
    • Address to U.S. Army recruits (1898), as quoted in U.S. Army Field Manual 22-5 (1986)
  • I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life.
    • Speech at the Hamilton Club, Chicago (1899-04-10)
  • Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
    • Speech at the Hamilton Club, Chicago (1899-04-10)
I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.
  • I have always been fond of the West African proverb "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
    • Letter to Henry L. Sprague (1900-01-26); This is the first known use of this phrase, which became a signature motto of Roosevelt's after he used it in a speech as Vice-President at the Minnesota State Fair:
There is a homely adage which runs "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." If the American nation will speak softly and yet build and keep at a pitch of highest training a thoroughly efficient Navy, the Monroe Doctrine will go far. (1901-09-02)
(Accounts of the precise wording with which he introduced this proverb vary. Another version is given below, within a more extensive transcript of the speech.)
  • Death is always and under all circumstances a tragedy, for if it is not, then it means that life itself has become one.
  • I'm as strong as a bull moose and you can use me to the limit.
  • I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.
    • Response when a dignitary asked if he could better control his daughter Alice, as quoted in Hail to the Chiefs : My Life and Times with Six Presidents (1970) by Ruth Shick Montgomery, and TIME magazine (3 March 1980)
  • Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.
    But there is another harm; and it is evident that we should try to do away with that. The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown.
    • Speech at Providence, Rhode Island (1902-08-23), Presidential Addresses and State Papers (1910), p. 103
Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
  • The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.
  • Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.
    • State of the Union address (2 December 1902)
  • A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to, and less than that no man shall have.
  • Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
    • "The Square Deal" Labor Day speech to the New York State Agricultural Association, Syracuse, NY (1903-09-07)
  • No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...
  • Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.
To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.
  • Men with the muckrake are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them. … If they gradually grow to feel that the whole world is nothing but muck their power of usefulness is gone.
    • Address on the laying of the cornerstone of the House Office Building, Washington, D.C. (1906-04-14)
  • Malefactors of great wealth.
    • Phrase first used in a speech at Provincetown, Massachusetts (1907-08-20)
  • To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.
  • It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
  • Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.
  • The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so far as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.
    • The New Nationalism (1910)
  • We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.
    • Speech at Progressive Party Convention, Chicago (1912-06-17)
  • We wish to control big business so as to secure among other things good wages for the wage-workers and reasonable prices for the consumers. Wherever in any business the prosperity of the businessman is obtained by lowering the wages of his workmen and charging an excessive price to the consumers we wish to interfere and stop such practices. We will not submit to that kind of prosperity any more than we will submit to prosperity obtained by swindling investors or getting unfair advantages over business rivals.
    • Speech at Progressive Party Convention, Chicago (1912-06-17)
We stand equally against government by a plutocracy and government by a mob.
  • Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests, which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
  • We stand equally against government by a plutocracy and government by a mob. There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with "the money touch," but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers.
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
  • If I must choose between righteousness and peace I choose righteousness.
    • America and the World War (1915)
  • There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism…. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.
    • Speech before the Knights of Columbus, New York (1915-10-12)
  • The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
  • Please put out the light, James.
    • Last words, to his valet, James Amos (1919-01-06), as quoted in Adventures of Theodore Roosevelt (1928) by Edwin Emerson, p. 336
  • A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.
    • As quoted in Stepping Stones : The Complete Bible Narratives (1941)
  • A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.
    • As quoted in Art of Communicating Ideas (1952) by William Joseph Grace, p. 389
  • In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
    • As quoted by [John M. Kost] (25 July 1995) in S. 946, the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1995: hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management and the District of Columbia of the Committee on Governmental Affairs (1996)
  • Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
    • As quoted in The Military Quotation Book, Revised and Expanded: More than 1,200 of the Best Quotations About War, Leadership, Courage, Victory, and Defeat (2002) by James Charlton
  • The United States of America has not the option as to whether it will or it will not play a great part in the world...It must play a great part. All that it can decide is whether it will play that part well or badly.
    • Quoted in "The Audacity of Hope" - Page 282 - by Barack Obama

The Strenuous Life (1900)

The Strenuous Life : Essays and Addresses (1900)
  • No man is justified in doing evil on the grounds of expediency.
  • If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world.
    • "The Strenuous Life"
  • In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard.
    • "The American Boy"

Speak softly and carry a big stick (1901)

No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest.
Quotes from a transcription of Roosevelt's speech at the opening of the Minnesota State Fair, as it appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune (3 September 1901)
  • No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force.
  • The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital which have marked the development of our industrial system, create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of state and the nation toward property.
  • Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far.” If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power.
  • Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not which prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people.

Address at Providence (1901)

Address at Providence, Rhode Island (1902-08-23)
  • We are passing through a period of great commercial prosperity, and such a period is as sure as adversity itself to bring mutterings of discontent. At a time when most men prosper somewhat some men always prosper greatly; and it is as true now as when the tower of Siloam fell upon all alike, that good fortune does not come solely to the just, nor bad fortune solely to the unjust. When the weather is good for crops it is also good for weeds.
  • Where men are gathered together in great masses it inevitably results that they must work far more largely through combinations than where they live scattered and remote from one another… Under present-day conditions it is necessary to have corporations in the business world as it is to have organizations, unions, among wage workers.
  • The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them wherever need of such control is shown…(Applause) The immediate necessity in dealing with trusts is to place them under the real, not the nominal, control of some sovereign to which, as its creatures, the trusts owe allegiance, and in whose courts the sovereign's orders may be enforced. In my opinion, this sovereign must be the National Government.

Social Implications of the Taxing Power (December, 1907)

  • A heavy progressive tax upon a very large fortune is in no way such a tax upon thrift or industry as a like would be on a small fortune. No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood. We have not the slightest sympathy with that socialistic idea which would try to put laziness, thriftlessness and inefficiency on a par with industry, thrift and efficiency; which would strive to break up not merely private property, but what is far more important, the home, the chief prop upon which our whole civilization stands. Such a theory, if ever adopted, would mean the ruin of the entire country--a ruin which would bear heaviest upon the weakest, upon those least able to shift for themselves. But proposals for legislation such as this herein advocated are directly opposed to this class of socialistic theories. Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be an equality of self-respect and of mutual respect, an equality of rights before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to his fellows.

Nobel lecture (1910)

All really civilized communities should have effective arbitration treaties among themselves.
Address at The National Theatre in Oslo, Norway (1910-05-05)
  • In our complex industrial civilization of today the peace of righteousness and justice, the only kind of peace worth having, is at least as necessary in the industrial world as it is among nations. There is at least as much need to curb the cruel greed and arrogance of part of the world of capital, to curb the cruel greed and violence of part of the world of labor, as to check a cruel and unhealthy militarism in international relationships.
  • We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.
  • Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them. The leaders of the Red Terror prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.
  • All really civilized communities should have effective arbitration treaties among themselves. I believe that these treaties can cover almost all questions liable to arise between such nations, if they are drawn with the explicit agreement that each contracting party will respect the others territory and its absolute sovereignty within that territory, and the equally explicit agreement that (aside from the very rare cases where the nation's honor is vitally concerned) all other possible subjects of controversy will be submitted to arbitration. Such a treaty would insure peace unless one party deliberately violated it. Of course, as yet there is no adequate safeguard against such deliberate violation, but the establishment of a sufficient number of these treaties would go a long way towards creating a world opinion which would finally find expression in the provision of methods to forbid or punish any such violation.
  • Finally, it would be a masterstroke if those great powers honestly bent on peace would form a League of Peace, not only to keep the peace among themselves, but to prevent, by force if necessary, its being broken by others. The supreme difficulty in connection with developing the peace work of The Hague arises from the lack of any executive power, of any police power to enforce the decrees of the court. In any community of any size the authority of the courts rests upon actual or potential force: on the existence of a police, or on the knowledge that the able-bodied men of the country are both ready and willing to see that the decrees of judicial and legislative bodies are put into effect.
  • In new and wild communities where there is violence, an honest man must protect himself; and until other means of securing his safety are devised, it is both foolish and wicked to persuade him to surrender his arms while the men who are dangerous to the community retain theirs. He should not renounce the right to protect himself by his own efforts until the community is so organized that it can effectively relieve the individual of the duty of putting down violence. So it is with nations. Each nation must keep well prepared to defend itself until the establishment of some form of international police power, competent and willing to prevent violence as between nations. As things are now, such power to command peace throughout the world could best be assured by some combination between those great nations which sincerely desire peace and have no thought themselves of committing aggressions. The combination might at first be only to secure peace within certain definite limits and on certain definite conditions; but the ruler or statesman who should bring about such a combination would have earned his place in history for all time and his title to the gratitude of all mankind.

New Nationalism (August 31, 1910)

  • No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar's worth of service rendered - not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective - a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.
  • Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled.

Address at Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1912)

I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.
Address at Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1912-10-14, delivered just after an assassination attempt upon him by John Schrank. Roosevelt credited the thickness of his prepared speech, which was shot through, as having prevented the bullet from entering his heart.
  • Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.
  • First of all, I want to say this about myself: I have altogether too important things to think of to feel any concern over my own death; and now I cannot speak to you insincerely within five minutes of being shot. I am telling you the literal truth when I say that my concern is for many other things.
  • I am in this cause with my whole heart and soul. I believe that the Progressive movement is making life a little easier for all our people; a movement to try to take the burdens off the men and especially the women and children of this country. I am absorbed in the success of that movement.
  • Friends, I will disown and repudiate any man of my party who attacks with such foul slander and abuse any opponent of any other party.
  • I cannot tell you of what infinitesimal importance I regard this incident as compared with the great issues at stake in this campaign, and I ask it not for my sake, not the least in the world, but for the sake of common country, that they make up their minds to speak only the truth, and not use that kind of slander and mendacity which if taken seriously must incite weak and violent natures to crimes of violence. Don't you make any mistake. Don't you pity me. I am all right. I am all right and you cannot escape listening to the speech either.
  • I am all right — I am a little sore. Anybody has a right to be sore with a bullet in him. You would find that if I was in battle now I would be leading my men just the same. Just the same way I am going to make this speech.

Theodore Roosevelt — An Autobiography (1913)

An attitude of moderation is apt to be misunderstood when passions are greatly excited and when victory is apt to rest with the extremists on one side or the other; yet I think it is in the long run the only wise attitude...
  • Among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are the foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it — the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements.
    • Ch. VII : The War of American and the Unready
  • I abhor unjust war. I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at the expense of the weak, whether among nations or individuals. I abhor violence and bloodshed. I believe that war should never be resorted to when, or so long as, it is honorably possible to avoid it. I respect all men and women who from high motives and with sanity and self-respect do all they can to avert war. I advocate preparation for war in order to avert war; and I should never advocate war unless it were the only alternative to dishonor.
    • Ch. VII : The War of American and the Unready
  • Each nation has its own pet sins to which it is merciful, and also sins which it treats as most abhorrent. In America, we are peculiarly sensitive about big money contributions for which the donors expect any reward. In England, where in some ways the standard is higher than here, such contributions are accepted as a matter of course, nay, as one of the methods by which wealthy men obtain peerages. It would be well-nigh an impossibility for a man to secure a seat in the United States Senate by mere campaign contributions, in the way that seats in the British House of Lords have often been secured without any scandal being caused thereby.
    • Ch. VIII : The New York Governorship
  • I do not believe that it is wise or safe for us as a party to take refuge in mere negation and to say that there are no evils to be corrected. It seems to me that our attitude should be one of correcting evils and thereby showing that, whereas the Populists, Socialists, and others really do not correct evils at all, or else do so at the expense of producing others in aggravated form, on the contrary we Republicans hold the just balance and set ourselves as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other. I understand perfectly that such an attitude of moderation is apt to be misunderstood when passions are greatly excited and when victory is apt to rest with the extremists on one side or the other; yet I think it is in the long run the only wise attitude...
    • Ch. VIII : The New York Governorship
  • As regards capital cases, the trouble is that emotional men and women always see only the individual whose fate is up at the moment, and neither his victim nor the many millions of unknown individuals who would in the long run be harmed by what they ask. Moreover, almost any criminal, however brutal, has usually some person, often a person whom he has greatly wronged, who will plead for him. If the mother is alive she will always come, and she cannot help feeling that the case in which she is so concerned is peculiar, that in this case a pardon should be granted. It was really heartrending to have to see the kinfolk and friends of murderers who were condemned to death, and among the very rare occasions when anything governmental or official caused me to lose sleep were times when I had to listen to some poor mother making a plea for a criminal so wicked, so utterly brutal and depraved, that it would have been a crime on my part to remit his punishment.
    On the other hand, there were certain crimes where requests for leniency merely made me angry. Such crimes were, for instance, rape, or the circulation of indecent literature, or anything connected with what would now be called the "white slave" traffic, or wife murder, or gross cruelty to women or children, or seduction and abandonment, or the action of some man in getting a girl whom he seduced to commit abortion. In an astonishing number of these cases men of high standing signed petitions or wrote letters asking me to show leniency to the criminal. In two or three of the cases — one where some young roughs had committed rape on a helpless immigrant girl, and another in which a physician of wealth and high standing had seduced a girl and then induced her to commit abortion — I rather lost my temper, and wrote to the individuals who had asked for the pardon, saying that I extremely regretted that it was not in my power to increase the sentence. I then let the facts be made public, for I thought that my petitioners deserved public censure. Whether they received this public censure or not I did not know, but that my action made them very angry I do know, and their anger gave me real satisfaction.
    • Ch. VIII : The New York Governorship
  • We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when any one engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right he shall himself be given a square deal; and the first, and most elementary, kind of square deal is to give him in advance full information as to just what he can, and what he cannot, legally and properly do. It is absurd, and much worse than absurd, to treat the deliberate lawbreaker as on an exact par with the man eager to obey the law, whose only desire is to find out from some competent Governmental authority what the law is, and then to live up to it. Moreover, it is absurd to treat the size of a corporation as in itself a crime.
    • Appendix A

Unsourced

  • A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.
  • A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.
  • Absence and death are the same — only that in death there is no suffering.
  • Appraisals are where you get together with your team leader and agree what an outstanding member of the team you are, how much your contribution has been valued, what massive potential you have and, in recognition of all this, would you mind having your salary halved.
  • Better a thousand times err on the side of over-readiness to fight, than to err on the side of tame submission to injury, or cold-blooded indifference to the misery of the oppressed.
  • Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.
  • Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.
  • Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.
  • Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.
  • For unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.
  • Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been effort stored up in the past.
  • Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.
  • Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.
  • I am a part of everything that I have read.
  • I am only an average man but, by George, I work harder at it than the average man.
  • I believe in corporations. They are indispensable instruments of our modern civilization; but I believe that they should be so supervised and so regulated that they shall act for the interest of the community as a whole.
  • I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!
  • I don't pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.
  • I have a perfect horror of words that are not backed up by deeds.
  • I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.
  • I never would have become president if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.
  • I think there is only one quality worse than hardness of heart and that is softness of head.
  • I took the Canal Zone and let Congress debate; and while the debate goes on, the canal does also.
  • If there is not the war, you don't get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don't get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name.
  • If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.
  • In advocating any measure we must consider not only its justice but its practicability.
  • In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
  • It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.
  • It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
  • It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
  • Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.
  • Laws are essential emanations from the self-poised character of God; they radiate from the sun to the circling edge of creation. Verily, the mighty Lawgiver hath subjected himself unto laws.
  • Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it.
  • Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.
  • Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.
  • No great intellectual thing was ever done by great effort.
  • No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.
  • Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  • Obedience of the law is demanded; not asked as a favor.
  • Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young.
  • One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called "weasel words." When a weasel sucks eggs the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a "weasel word" after another there is nothing left of the other.
  • Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.
  • Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country.
  • Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy.
  • People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.
  • Pray not for lighter burdens but for stronger backs.
  • Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.
  • Some men can live up to their loftiest ideals without ever going higher than a basement.
  • The American people abhor a vacuum.
  • The American people are slow to wrath, but once that wrath is kindled, it burns like a consuming flame.
  • The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
  • The boy who is going to make a great man must not make up his mind merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.
  • The government is us; we are the government, you and I.
  • The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need a kick in the seat of the pants.
  • The man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done.
  • The man who loves other countries as much as his own stands on a level with the man who loves other women as much as he loves his own wife.
  • The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.
  • The most successful politician is he who says what everybody is thinking most often and in the loudest voice.
  • The one thing I want to leave my children is an honorable name.
  • The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.
  • The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.
  • The pacifist is as surely a traitor to his country and to humanity as is the most brutal wrongdoer.
  • The reactionary is always willing to take a progressive attitude on any issue that is dead.
  • The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.
  • The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly.
  • There are good men and bad men of all nationalities, creeds and colors; and if this world of ours is ever to become what we hope some day it may become, it must be by the general recognition that the man's heart and soul, the man's worth and actions, determine his standing.
  • There can be no fifty-fifty Americanism in this country. There is room here for only 100 percent. Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing else.
  • There is but one answer to be made to the dynamite bomb, and that can best be made with the Winchester rifle.
  • There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility.
  • There is not one among us in whom a devil does not dwell; at sometime, on some point, that devil masters each of us; he who has never failed has never been tempted; but the man who does in the end conquer, who does painfully retrace the steps of his slipping, why he shows that he has been tried in the fire and not found wanting. It is not having been in the Dark House, but having left it, that counts.
  • To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.
  • We need the iron qualities that go with true manhood. We need the positive virtues of resolution, of courage, of indomitable will, of power to do without shrinking the rough work that must always be done.
  • When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.'
  • When you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.
  • When you play, play hard; when you work, don't play at all.
  • With self-discipline most anything is possible.
  • The canal was by far the most important action I took in foreign affairs during the time I was President. When nobody could or would exercise efficient authority, I exercised it.
  • When compared with the suppression of anarchy every other question sinks into insignificance. The anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is a deeper degree of criminality than any other. No immigrant is allowed to come to our shores if he is an anarchist; and no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchist opinions.
    • 1908

Quotes about Roosevelt

  • Roosevelt was a great personality, a great activist, a great preacher of the moralities, a great controversialist, a great showman. He dominated his era as he dominated conversations ... the masses loved him; he proved to be a great popular idol and a great vote getter.
  • Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there'd have been a fight.

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