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 October 17, 2018:

I am always amused and slightly chagrined to think that, as far as I know, she should have only heard me speak on the two occasions when I made the very worst speeches I ever made - the McCollum statue, and that night I was thoroughly fogged out and my throat drawn in New Mexico.
Roosevelt writes to Alford Warriner Cooley in late August of 1911 that he is amused that Mrs. Cooley, Susan Dexter Dalton, is only familiar with Roosevelt's public speaking abilities from what he considers his worst speeches. Cooley was the United States Civil Service Commissioner and a close friend of Roosevelt.

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October 5, 2018
What a miserable little snob Henry James is. His polished, pointless, uninteresting stories about the upper social classes of England make one blush to think that he was once an American. I turned to a story of Kipling's with a feeling of getting into fresh, healthy, out-of-doors life.
Roosevelt wrote these words to his friend James Brander Matthews on June 29, 1894. Roosevelt was a voracious reader, often dispatching a book a day and with nearly photographic memory. It was inevitable that he would despise Henry James. Roosevelt wrote more about the books he was reading than any other President of the United States.
August 31, 2018
I think very little of mere oratory. I feel an impatient contempt for the man of words if he is merely a man of words. The great speech must always be the speech of a man with a great soul, who has a thought worth putting into words, and whose acts bear out the words he utters; and the occasion must demand the speech.
Theodore Roosevelt penned these words in a letter to his best friend, Henry Cabot Lodge, on July 19, 1908, in the last years of his presidency. This is one of those handful of passages in Roosevelt’s works that epitomize his view of life. The key to leadership, he reckoned, was muscular words delivered forcefully by a strenuous man coupled with genuine action.
August 30, 2018
In a certain sense, no man can absolutely make an opportunity. . . Nevertheless, when the chance does come, only the great man can see it instantly and use it aright. In the second place, it must always be remembered that the power of using the chance aright comes only to the man who has faithfully and for long years made ready himself and his weapons for the possible need.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in McClure’s Magazine in October 1899. Although he was writing generally about the need for preparedness and hard study, he was surely referring to his recent adventures in Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898.
August 29, 2018
At this time it is not necessary to discuss nullification as a constitutional dogma; it is an absurdity too great to demand serious refutation. The United States has the same right to protect itself from death by nullification, secession, or rebellion that a man has to protect himself from death by assassination. Calhoun’s hair-splitting and metaphysical disquisitions on the constitutionality of nullification have now little more practical interest than have the extraordinary arguments and discussions of the schoolmen of the Middle Ages.
From TR’s 1887 biography of Missouri Sen. Thomas Hart Benton. Nullification was a tactic used by southern states to preclude the U.S. government ending slavery. Born in the mind of Thomas Jefferson, it was routinely employed before the Civil War to enforce state’s rights and resist the national government’s encroachment into southern affairs. John C. Calhoun was a leading South Carolina statesman.
August 28, 2018
The Ordinance of 1787 was so wide-reaching in its effects, was drawn in such far-seeing statesmanship, and was fraught with such weal for the nation, that it will ever rank among the foremost of American State papers, coming in that little group which includes the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Washington’s Farewell Address, and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Second Inaugural.
Theodore Roosevelt was referring to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed by the Confederation Congress in the same year that the new Constitution of the United States was drafted in Philadelphia. The ordinance created a template for bringing new states into the federal union on an equal (not subordinate) basis, and it famously outlawed slavery north of the Ohio River.
August 27, 2018
The New Nationalism represents the struggle of freemen to gain and to hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, to destroy privilege, and to give to the life and the citizenship of every individual in the commonwealth the highest possible value, both to himself and to the nation.
Address in Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 5, 1910. TR left the presidency in March 1909, spent more than a year in Africa and Europe, and returned to the U.S. as a kind of conquering hero. Disillusioned with his hand-picked successor, TR began to speak in a more determined (and radical) manner than ever before. This talk came just three months after his famous New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie, Kansas.
August 26, 2018
As for neutrality, it is well to remember that it is never moral, and may be a particularly mean and hideous form of immorality. . . . It is a wicked thing to be neutral between right and wrong. Impartiality does not mean neutrality.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in 1916, as the Wilson administration strained to keep the United States out of World War I. He was a sharp, sometimes vicious, critic of Woodrow Wilson’s lofty idealism. TR believed that the world was divided between right and wrong, good and evil, righteousness and pusillanimity.
August 25, 2018
During my term as President I have more than doubled the navy of the United States, and at this moment our battle fleet is doing what no other similar fleet of a like size has ever done—that is, circumnavigating the globe—and is also at this moment in far more efficient battle trim, from the standpoint of battle tactics, and even from the standpoint of gunnery, than when it started out a year ago.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in a letter to British author and critic Sydney Brooks. He was referring to the Great White Fleet, the naval flotilla that President Roosevelt sent on a round the world cruise between 1907 and 1909. When TR became president, the U.S. had the fifth largest navy in the world. By the time he left office, the U.S. had the third or second largest navy.
August 24, 2018
In public as in private life a bold front tends to insure peace and not strife. If we possess a formidable navy, small is the chance indeed that we shall ever be dragged into a war to uphold the Monroe Doctrine. If we do not possess such a navy, war may be forced on us at any time.
Address to Naval War College, June 1897. TR regarded a good offense as the best defense. His commitment to the Monroe Doctrine led him to advocate war against Spain in Cuba in 1898. As president, he decreed the Roosevelt Corollary: since the U.S. would not tolerate European meddling in Central and South America, the U.S. would police the Western Hemisphere in times of lawlessness and chaos.
August 23, 2018
The savage of today shows us what the fancied age of gold of our ancestors was really like; it was an age when hunger, cold, violence, and iron cruelty were the ordinary accompaniments of life.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in his book African Game Trails in 1910. He despised the romanticization of primitive cultures, including the American Indian. He was a Hobbesian, and he disagreed strenuously with those, like Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson, who tended to idealize life before the advent of civilization.
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