Quote of the Day

Theodore Roosevelt was a very effective writer and speaker, and he is eminently quotable. For each of the quotes below, the Theodore Roosevelt Center has provided a brief explanation of the setting or the context in which TR made the statement.

The TR Quote of the Day App, available in the Mac App Store or Android Market for your iOS and Android devices, also includes a TR Quiz to test your knowledge about our 26th president.

Featured Quote for May 27, 2018:

…I fail to see...how any American can come [to Chattanooga] and see evidences of the mighty deeds done by the men who wore the blue and the men who wore the gray, and not go away a better American, prouder of the country, prouder because of the valor displayed on both sides in the contest—the valor, the self-devotion, the loyalty to the right as each side saw the right.
Theodore Roosevelt's father had an important role in the Civil War as a member of the Sanitary Commission. He did not take up arms because his wife's family was from Georgia. TR gave this address in Tennessee in 1902, to listeners who knew or who were Civil War veterans. It is more than conciliation or vote-getting. TR admired soldiers--his Confederate Bulloch uncles and his Union relatives, too.


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May 26, 2018
I speak French, I am sorry to say, as if it were a non-Aryan tongue, without tense or gender although with agglutinative vividness and fluency.
Theodore Roosevelt's French language skills were tested during the events surrounding the 1911 funeral of England's King Edward VII. He shared this assessment of his abilities in a confidential letter to his friend David Gray.
May 25, 2018
[The Boy Scout movement] has already done much good, and it will do far more, for it is in its essence a practical scheme through which to impart a proper standard of ethical conduct, proper standards of fair play and consideration for others, and courage and decency….
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) began in 1910, after Theodore Roosevelt's presidential term expired. Nonetheless, Roosevelt so believed in the mission of Boy Scouting that he served as honorary vice president of the Boy Scouts and is the only man ever to have been known as Chief Scout Citizen. This quote is from a 1911 letter to BSA Chief Scout Executive James E. West.
May 24, 2018
There is no need of your feeling that you intruded upon me. I am here to be intruded upon in just such ways.
This is the first line of an 1893 letter from Civil Service Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to a New Yorker who wrote asking for his assistance with a civil service matter. It showcases Roosevelt's facility with the language, his sense of humor (appropriate to a business letter), and his willingness to work on behalf of his constituents.
May 23, 2018
Daniel Boone will always occupy a unique place in our history as the archetype of the hunter and wilderness wanderer. He was a true pioneer, and stood at the head of that class of Indian fighters, game-hunters, forest-fellers, and backwoods farmers who, generation after generation, pushed westward the border of civilization from the Alleghenies to the Pacific.
Theodore Roosevelt was an ardent and unapologetic expansionist. He regarded Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett as archetypes of what an American man should be, and he feared that the end of the frontier would result in a race of Americans who were not equal to the struggle of life. After his sojourn in the Dakota Bad Lands, he and George Bird Grinnell created the Boone and Crockett Club to protect the American wilderness and promote primordial values in the American character. This passage comes from Hero Tales from American History, published in 1895.
May 22, 2018
It seems rather odd that it should be necessary to insist upon the fact that the essence of a book is to be readable; but most certainly the average scientific or historical writer needs to have this elementary proposition drilled into his brain. Perhaps if this drilling were once accomplished, we Americans would stand a greater chance of producing an occasional Darwin or Gibbon.
Theodore Roosevelt frequently expressed his distaste for academic prose. He did not regard himself as a very good writer, but in fact he was a writer of extraordinary clarity and narrative force, a master story teller, and someone who could keep the reader’s attention even when writing about topics of complexity.
May 21, 2018
The Audubon societies and all similar organizations are doing a great work for the future of our country. Birds should be saved because of utilitarian reasons; and, moreover, they should be saved because of reasons unconnected with any return in dollars and cents. . . And to lose the chance to see frigate-birds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad of terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach—why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote this in A Book Lover’s Holidays in the Open. He was a lifelong lover of birds. His first book, published in 1877, when he was just 19 years old, was entitled The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in Franklin County, N.Y. It was typical of TR’s philosophy of conservation to liken American natural beauties to European cultural achievements.
May 20, 2018
How entirely I sympathize with your feelings in the attic! I know just what it is to get up into such a place and find the delightful, winding passages where one lay hidden with thrills of criminal delight, when the grown-ups were vainly demanding one’s appearance at some legitimate and abhorred function; and then the once-beloved and half-forgotten treasures, and the emotions of peace and war, with reference to former companions, which they recall.
Letter to his daughter Ethel Roosevelt, June 17, 1906. Roosevelt was serving his second term as president at the time. Roosevelt was a devoted father. His letters to his six children are among the most delightful things he ever wrote. The boy in Roosevelt was never quite extinguished.
May 19, 2018
It is of far more importance that a man shall play something himself, even if he plays it badly, than that he shall go with hundreds of companions to see some one else play well. . . We can not afford to turn out of college men who shrink from physical effort or from a little physical pain. In any republic courage is a prime necessity for the average citizen if he is to be a good citizen.
Theodore Roosevelt delivered these words at his alma mater Harvard on February 23, 1907. He was at the time serving his second term as president. After a rash of football-related injuries and deaths at the nation’s colleges and universities, a number of college presidents, including Charles Elliot at Harvard, considered canceling their football programs. Roosevelt fought hard to reform the sport in order to save it.
May 18, 2018
The secret service men are a very small but very necessary thorn in the flesh. Of course they would not be the least use in preventing any assault upon my life. I do not believe there is any danger of such an assault, and if there were it would be simple nonsense to try to prevent it, for as Lincoln said, though it would be safer for a President to live in a cage, it would interfere with his business.
Theodore Roosevelt was characteristically indifferent to the idea of an assassination attempt. His wife Edith lived in fear that an assassin would make an attempt on her husband’s life. Roosevelt lived in an age of assassinations: Lincoln 1865, Garfield 1881, and McKinley (his immediate predecessor) 1901. During the Bull Moose campaign in 1912, a saloon keeper shot Roosevelt in the chest, but did not kill him. In fact, Roosevelt proceeded to the auditorium and delivered an 84 minute speech.
May 17, 2018
Art, or at least the art for which I care, must present the ideal through the temperament and the interpretation of the painter. I do not greatly care for the representation of landscapes which, in effect, I see whenever I ride or walk. I wish ‘the light that never was on land or sea’ in the pictures that I am to live with.
Letter of March 19, 1904, to P. Marcius Simmons. Simmons (1867-1909) was an American-born symbolist painter best known for the high coloration of his paintings. Although Roosevelt was known as a man of action, he was actually in many regards a Renaissance man. He read the literature of many cultures, often in the original language, and his artistic sensibilities were surprisingly cosmopolitan.
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