when a dignitary complained to President Theodore Roosevelt about Alice Roosevelt (his daughter) smoking on top of the White House, Roosevelt replied, “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”

 

The light has gone out of my life.

  • Entry in Roosevelt’s diary, after which he put a large X, on 14 February 1884, 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 13 February 1884; in this same house their father had also died from stomach cancer on 9 February 1878, at the age of 46.
  • Of recent years… representative government all over the world has been threatened with a growing paralysis. Legislative bodies have tended more and more to become wholly inefficient for the purposes of legislation. The prime feature in causing this unhealthy growth has been the discovery by minorities that under the old rules of parliamentary procedure they could put a complete stop to all legislative action… If the minority is as powerful as the majority there is no use of having political contests at all, for there is no use in having a majority.
  • Speech before the Federal Club, New York City, March 6, 1891. New York Daily Tribune, March 7, 1891.
  • We cannot afford merely to sit down and deplore the evils of city life as inevitable, when cities are constantly growing, both absolutely and relatively. We must set ourselves vigorously about the task of improving them; and this task is now well begun.
  • “The City in Modern Life”, Literary Essays (vol. 12 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., 1926), p. 226. Book review in The Atlantic Monthly (April 1895).
  • A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane; the negro, for instance, has been kept down as much by lack of intellectual development as by anything else; but the prime factor in the preservation of a race is its power to attain a high degree of social efficiency. Love of order, ability to fight well and breed well, capacity to subordinate the interests of the individual to the interests of the community, these and similar rather humdrum qualities go to make up the sum of social efficiency. The race that has them is sure to overturn the race whose members have brilliant intellects, but who are cold and selfish and timid, who do not breed well or fight well, and who are not capable of disinterested love of the community. In other words, character is far more important than intellect to the race as to the individual. We need intellect, and there is no reason why we should not have it together with character; but if we must choose between the two we choose character without a moment’s hesitation.
  • Responding to the social theories of Benjamin Kidd, in “Kidd’s ‘Social Evolution’” in The North American Review (July 1895), p. 109.
  • The men of Yale,the men of the universities, all, who, when the country called, went to give their lives, did more than reflect honor upon the universities from which they came. They did that which they could not have done so well in any other way. They showed that when the time of danger comes, all Americans, whatever their social standing, whatever their creed, whatever the training they have received, no matter from what section of the country they have come, stand together as men, as Americans, and are content to face the same fate and do the same duties because fundamentally they all alike have the common purpose to serve the glorious flag of their common country.
  • Address at the Yale Alumni Dinner, The Oxford Club, Brooklyn, New York, March 3, 1899.
  • If we lose the virile, manly qualities, and sink into a nation of mere hucksters, putting gain over national honor, and subordinating everything to mere ease of life, then we shall indeed reach a condition worse than that of the ancient civilizations in the years of their decay.
  • “The Law of Civilization and Decay”, The Forum (January 1897), reprinted in American Ideals (1926), vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., chapter 15, pp. 259–60.
  • Every man among us is more fit to meet the duties and responsibilities of citizenship because of the perils over which, in the past, the nation has triumphed; because of the blood and sweat and tears, the labor and the anguish, through which, in the days that have gone, our forefathers moved on to triumph.
  • Speech before the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island (June 1897), reported in “Washington’s Forgotten Maxim”, American Ideals (1926), vol. 13 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed., chapter 12, p. 198.
  • 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).
  • Greatness means strife for nation and man alike. A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.
  • Address at the opening of the gubernatorial campaign, New York City (October 5, 1898), reported in “The Duties of a Great Nation”, Campaigns and Controversies, vol. 14 of The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, national ed. (1926), chapter 45, p. 291.
  • 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 (26 January 1900); 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. (2 September 1901)
  • (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.).

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