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 July:

I believe that human rights are supreme over all other rights; that wealth should be the servant, not the master of the people.

Theodore Roosevelt's political thinking became steadily more progressive as his life unfolded. He made this statement in Chicago, early in 1912, as he prepared to mount his challenge to the incumbent president—and his friend—William Howard Taft.

Quotes:

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July 2016

Surely we must all recognize the search for truth as an imperative duty; and we ought all of us likewise to recognize that this search for truth should be carried on, not only fearlessly, but also with reverence, with humility of spirit, and with full recognition of our own limitations both of the mind and the soul.

Theodore Roosevelt believed that science and faith were not incompatible. He was at heart a materialist, but he believed that an overweening materialism led to a nation of John D. Rockefellers looking out for themselves rather than a true community. TR biographer Edmund Morris wrote that by 1911 Roosevelt was able to “distinguish the unselfish citizen from the mere hoarder of gold.”

July 2016

We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so. The mineral wealth of the country, the coal, iron, oil, gas, and the like, does not reproduce itself, and therefore is certain to be exhausted ultimately; and wastefulness in dealing with it to-day means that our descendants will feel the exhaustion a generation or two before they otherwise would.

Roosevelt wrote these words in his Seventh Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1907. No previous President devoted so much of his energy to conservation issues. Roosevelt’s mantra was “wise use.” Although he wanted to preserve especially important national landmarks, he usually advocated scientific management and “sustained yield,” as the goal of American conservation.

July 2016

The Constitution belongs to the people and not the people to the Constitution.

Roosevelt believed the U.S. Constitution was an enabling rather than a restraining document. He vigorously opposed strict constructionists (like former President Thomas Jefferson) who believed that the national government could only do those things enumerated in the Constitution. Roosevelt believed that national progress required a flexible and expansive reading. He spoke these words July 2, 1913.

July 2016

The only way in which successfully to oppose wrong which is backed by might is to put over against it right which is backed by might.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt made this pithy statement in 1916. It expressed his anger toward Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm as World War I continued in Europe.

July 2016

Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character--character that does and dares as well as endures, character that is active in the performance of virtue no less than firm in the refusal to do aught that is vicious or degraded.

From Theodore Roosevelt's article entitled "Character and Success," published in the Outlook Magazine on March 31, 1900.

July 2016

There is no need for a boy to preach about his own good conduct and virtue. If he does he will make himself offensive and ridiculous. But there is urgent need that he should practice decency; that he should be clean and straight, honest and truthful, gentle and tender, as well as brave.

This was a sentiment Theodore Roosevelt expressed many times and in many ways throughout his life. The particular quote comes from his 1900 article, “The American Boy.”

July 2016

To follow conventions merely because they are conventions is silly . . .

This was in Roosevelt’s letter to the American Institute of Architects. It was read aloud at the 50th annual convention of the Institute in Minneapolis on December 7, 1916.

July 2016

That man is the best American who has in him the American spirit, the American soul. Such a man fears not the strong and harms not the weak. He scorns what is base or cruel or dishonest. He looks beyond the accidents of occupation or social condition and hails each of his fellow citizens as his brother, asking nothing save that each shall treat the other on his worth as a man, and that they shall all join together to do what in them lies for the uplifting of this mighty and vigorous people.

Statement before the Society of Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York City, on March 17, 1905. Roosevelt had just begun his second term as president.

July 2016

Good legislation does not secure good government, which can come only through a good administration.

Statement at a Merchant’s Association Dinner in New York City, on May 25, 1900. Roosevelt was a lifelong advocate of civil service reform. He was a U.S. Civil Service Commissioner 1889-95. Roosevelt was not afraid of government. But he expected government to be efficient, frugal, and scrupulously honest.

July 2016

I am very fond of dancing; it is my favourite amusement, excepting horseback riding.

Jan. 12, 1880 diary entry of Theodore Roosevelt.

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