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Theodore Roosevelt
1858 - 1919

Twenty-sixth American president (Republican, 1901-1909). First elected to the New York State Assembly at the age of 23, Roosevelt served until the death of his young wife in 1884, when he withdrew for several years to run a cattle ranch in Dakota territory. After returning to New York, he battled civil service corruption as head of the U.S. Civil Service Commission and later of New York's Police Commission. Appointed by President McKinley as secretary of the Navy, he resigned to be the lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, and became famous for leading the charge at the battle of San Juan in the Spanish-American War. In 1898 he won election as governor of the scandal-ridden New York state government on promises of reform, and served until convinced to run as McKinley's vice-president. Upon McKinley's assassination after only six months in office, he became president and won election to a second term in 1904. Roosevelt said his approach to many challenges was to "speak softly and carry a big stick." He used regulation and expansion of his executive power to reign in large monopolies, fomented a revolution in Panama to undertake construction of the Panama Canal, set the foundations for America's military dominance, and indulged his interests as an avid naturalist in undertaking several major natural conservation efforts. He also significantly expanded government's reach and attempted a series of "progressive" efforts to force a balance between business and labour, which cost him needed support during his second, largely ineffectual, term in office.

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The Essential Theodore Roosevelt (1994)
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Click here for essays by Theodore Roosevelt
From the very beginning our people have markedly combined practical capacity for affairs with power of devotion to an ideal. The lack of either quality would have rendered the other of small value.

Nov. 22, 1902 - from a speech delivered in Philadalphia
The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.

Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.

Mar. 4, 1905 - from his Inaugural Address
... in this actual world, a churchless community where men have abandoned or scoffed at or ignored their religious needs is a community on the rapid downgrade.

1917 - quoted by William Simon in "Why America Needs Religion", a Heritage Foundation Lecture
Canadians like to indulge themselves as a harmless luxury in a feeling of hostility to the United States. Practically this does not operate at all ... but the average Canadian likes to feel patriotic by jeering at the man across the border.

It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Apr. 23, 1910 - from "Citizenship in a Republic", a speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France
The old parties are husks, with no real soul within either, divided on artificial lines, boss-ridden and privilege-controlled, each a jumble of incongruous elements, and neither daring to speak out wisely and fearlessly on what should be said on the vital issues of the day.

Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity.

May 12, 1900 - from a speech while governor of New York
No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community...

May 12, 1900 - from a speech while governor of New York
The weakling and the coward cannot be saved by honesty alone; but without honesty, the brave and able man is merely a civic wild beast who should be hunted down by every lover of righteousness.

May 12, 1900 - from a speech while governor of New York
My power vanishes into thin air the instant that my fellow citizens who are straight and honest cease to believe that I represent them and fight for what is straight and honest; that is all the strength I have.

To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.

Americanism is a question of principle, of purpose, of idealism, of character. It is not a matter of birthplace or creed or line of descent.

Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.

The most successful politician is he who says what the people are thinking most often in the loudest voice.

We can afford to differ on the currency, the tariff, and foreign policy; but we cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure...

May 12, 1900 - from a speech while governor of New York
It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorius history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Apr. 10, 1899 - from "The Strenuous Life", a speech to the Hamilton Club, Chicago
A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual.

Apr. 10, 1899 - from "The Strenuous Life", a speech to the Hamilton Club, Chicago
Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any public official, save exactly to the degree he himself stands by the country.