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 15, 2018:

I have never seen anything like the sordid baseness of the attitude of the average businessman in this campaign and the utter folly of the average intellectual creature of Mugwump antecedents.
Written on October 31, 1910 to George von Lengerke Meyer, Roosevelt believes "we shall be beaten," likely referring to upcoming midterm elections. Democrats gained seats in the House, taking control of a chamber of Congress for the first time in nearly 20 years. In the Senate, Republicans continued to control the chamber despite Democratic party gains. Progressives from both parties gained strength that would help support TR's third party run in 1912. All in all, TR's letter to Meyer was somewhat prophetic.

View Document of Origin


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August 20, 2018
Specialization, like every other good thing, can be carried to excess; and no forms of specialization are less desirable than those which make of the outdoor naturalist a mere collector of ‘specimens,’ and of the indoor naturalist a mere laborious cataloguer and describer of these specimens when collected.
Theodore Roosevelt thought he would study natural history at Harvard (1776-1880), but when he realized that the curriculum consisted principally of tedious lab work with the microscope, he turned his attention in other directions. Roosevelt found nothing interesting for very long that did not have something of the heroic in it. He wrote these words in the American Museum Journal in December 1918.
August 19, 2018
If in a given community unchecked popular rule means unlimited waste and destruction of the natural resources—soil, fertility, water-power, forests, game, wild life generally—which by right belong as much to subsequent generations as to the present generation, then it is sure proof that the present generation is not yet really fit for self-control; that it is not yet really fit to exercise the high and responsible privilege of a rule which shall be both by the people and for the people.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in 1916 in A Book Lover’s Holidays in the Open, one of his most charming books. The more one studies Roosevelt’s commitment to conservation of America’s natural resources, the more remarkable it seems. Virtually alone among presidents of his era, he regarded conservation as one of the principal needs of the United States.
August 18, 2018
Timid people, people scant of faith and hope, and good people who are not accustomed to the roughness of the life of effort—are almost sure to be disheartened and dismayed by the work and the worry, and overmuch cast down by the shortcomings, actual or seeming, which in real life always accompany the first stages even of what eventually turn out to be the most brilliant victories.
For Theodore Roosevelt life was struggle, glorious struggle, but not without setbacks and failures. He uttered these words at Hartford, Connecticut, on August 22, 1902. He had been president for less than a year.
August 17, 2018
Like all Americans, I like big things; big prairies, 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 prosperity corrupted their virtue.
Theodore Roosevelt spoke these words at the first-ever Fourth of July celebration in Dickinson, Dakota Territory, in 1886. Today a new statue graces the spot where he delivered what historians regard as his first great national speech, on the lawn of the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson, North Dakota.
August 16, 2018
While the nation that has dared to be great, that has had the will and the power to change the destiny of the ages, in the end must die, yet no less surely the nation that has played the part of the weakling must also die; and whereas the nation that has done nothing leaves nothing behind it, the nation that has done a great deal really continues, though in changed form, to live forevermore.
Theodore Roosevelt spoke these words at the Minnesota State Fair on September 2, 1901. He could not know it at the time, but less than two weeks later he would be the President of the United States. His view of America, as of his own life, was heroic.
August 15, 2018
If our population decreases; if we lose the virile, manly qualities, and sink into a nation of mere hucksters, putting gain above 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.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in the Forum in January 1897. He was quick to note that he did not think the United States was on the road to dissolution, but he was certain that we needed to tone up our national manliness. A little more than a year later, he would lead the charge up Kettle and San Juan hills in Cuba.
August 14, 2018
I do not think there is a more impressive sepulcher on earth than [Napoleon’s] tomb; it is grandly simple. I am not very easily awestruck, but it certainly gave me a solemn feeling to look at the plain, red stone bier which contained what had once been the mightiest conqueror the world ever saw.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words to his sister Anna (Bamie) on September 5, 1881. He had visited Europe, including Paris, on his honeymoon. Napoleon's Tomb is located in the central crypt of the Eglise du Dome Church at the Hotel des Invalides.
August 13, 2018
I want to let in light and air, but I do not want to let in sewer-gas. . . . In other words, I feel that the man who in a yellow newspaper or in a yellow magazine makes a ferocious attack on good men or even attacks bad men with exaggeration or for things they have not done, is a potent enemy of those of us who are really striving in good faith to expose bad men and drive them from power.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words to one of America’s principal muckrakers, Ray Stannard Baker, on April 9, 1906. TR feared that some investigative journalists were finding so much pleasure in their work that they were losing sight of fairness and good sense.
August 12, 2018
No man, not even the soldier who does his duty, stands quite on the level with the wife and mother who has done her duty.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these words in the The Outlook on April 8, 1911. He was prone to this sort of family sentimentalism.
August 11, 2018
Every great nation owes to the men whose lives have formed part of its greatness not merely the material effect of what they did, not merely the laws they placed upon the statute-books or the victories they won over armed foes, but also the immense but indefinable moral influence produced by their deeds and words themselves upon the national character.
Theodore Roosevelt published these words in the Forum in February 1895. Because he wanted to change the world, TR tried to live a life “holier than Caesar’s wife.” He believed that moral character was as important as action in America’s leaders.
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