Secretary Udall, Chief Justice Warren, Mrs. Longworth, members of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, ladies and gentlemen:
At the Republican Convention of 1912 in Chicago, Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to make another bid for the Presidency. Some of his detractors passed around handbills reading: "At 3 o'clock Thursday afternoon, Theodore Roosevelt will walk on the waters of Lake Michigan."
Of course, he didn't walk on water. But he did leave a mark upon American life that will endure as long as America has pride in itself, and pride in its purpose. When he left office--with the accomplishments of a generation compressed into a very few years-the world knew all about America's power. More importantly, the world also knew about America's promise.
Roosevelt spoke with force to the problems of his day. He fought the trusts, he fought the selfish interests, he fought those who plundered this land. The Nation changed because of what he said, and because he put his words into action. He believed that--
"Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results.
"First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself, all that in him lies;to reach the highest point to which capacities . . . can carry him,--and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned.
"Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable."
There is no better expression of our controlling purpose in America at this hour.
The giants of American history have always spoken beyond their own times, to all generations.
Theodore Roosevelt was such a giant. He challenged our people to build, not just for themselves, but for their children; not just for private gain, but always for the public good.
He spoke in terms of hard contests and noble purposes. He celebrated decency and righteousness. He urged that the responsibilities of citizenship be always manfully met.
These are not the standards of an "earlier and simpler time." They are for all times-for calm and for storm.
I do not know what his response would be to the specific problems of our decade. No man could or should presume to say. But we do know that it would not be the easy answer-if he believed the hard answer was the right one. "Woe to the country," he said, "where a generation arises which... shrinks from doing the rough work of the world."
If Theodore Roosevelt had wanted any memorial at all, he would have wanted it here--in this wild little island in the center of a historic river--where his statue is sheltered in the trees. May our people always remember the generous, passionate spirit that is memorialized here. May it inform and strengthen all of us in our hours and our time of our greatest trials.
Thank you, very much.