In July of 1886, a young Theodore Roosevelt gave his first major public speech right here in Dickinson, North Dakota. Roosevelt had been asked to give the Independence Day speech by Dr. Victor Stickney, the man who’d patched up Roosevelt’s feet following the boat thieves’ episode. Dickinson was celebrating the holiday in a big way; a witness noted that everyone was so enthusiastic about the parade that the bystanders kept joining it, leaving no one watching it!
Roosevelt was the third speaker of the celebration and with his characteristic high voice, he delivered a speech which identified him with his fellow listeners and also hinted at the big things to come for this young man from New York who called Dakota Territory home:
…Like all Americans, I like big things; big parades, big forests and mountains, big wheat fields, railroads – and herds of cattle too; big factories, steamboats and everything else. But we must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever yet benefited by riches if their property corrupted their virtue. It is more important that we should show ourselves honest, brave, truthful, and intelligent than that we should own all the railways and grain elevators in the world…I am myself at heart as much a westerner as an easterner; I am proud indeed to be considered one of yourselves, and I address you in this rather solemn strain today only because of my pride in you and because your welfare, moral as well as material, is so near my heart.
You can read the entirety of Roosevelt’s 1886 speech here. You can also see pictures of the statue commemorating this event here and here, as we dedicated "Young TR Enters the Arena" during last year’s Symposium.
We here at the Theodore Roosevelt Center would like to wish you and your family a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday. We will be closed on Wednesday, July 4, in observance of the holiday and will resume our normal operating hours on Thursday, July 5.
Jenkinson, Clay. Theodore Roosevelt in the Dakota Badlands: An Historical Guide, 2006.