Address at Pasadena, California

May 08, 1903

Mr. Congressman, Mr. Mayor, and You, My Fellow-Citizens, Men, Women and Children of Pasadena:

I am not going to talk to you very long this morning, because I am too much interested in your community. I want to see all I can see. We speak often of the old pioneer days, and the wonderful feats of our countrymen in those days, but we are living right in the middle of them now, only we are living under pleasanter auspices. To think of the well-nigh incredible fact that all of this that I have been looking at—the city, the development of the country—that it has all occurred within twenty years; that twenty years has separated the sheep pasture from this city, from the fertile irrigated region round about. It is hard to believe it. You have done this great work of building up a new community; you have built up the new community, and yet have preserved all the charm, all the refinement, of the oldest civilizations. It is all so striking that it is difficult for me to know what to comment upon. Yesterday and today I have been traveling through what is literally a garden of the Lord, in sight of the majestic and wonderful scenery of the mountains, going over this plain tilled by the hand of man as you have tilled it, that has blossomed like the rose—blossomed as I never dreamed in my life that the rose could blossom until I came here. Everywhere I have gone I have been greeted by the men who wear the button that shows that they belong to the Grand Army of the Republic, men who fought in that army in many different regiments, from many different States, who have come here from many different States; but who as they fought, all, no matter from what State they came—as they fought all for the federal flag and the federal Union have come here from their original home to become Californians while remaining Americans. For, oh, my friends, the thing that has impressed me most here in this State of the West, this wonderful commonwealth that has grown up on the Pacific Slope, the thing that has impressed me most is that I am speaking to Americans just as I speak in any other section of the country! We are all pretty much alike, and I believe so unqualifiedly in the future of the country because I believe in the average American, because I believe in the average standard of our citizenship; and I believe that serious though the problems are that now confront us, they will all be solved exactly as you solved the far more serious problems of the early '60s, if we approach them in the same spirit in which you approached yours. You went to war for liberty, union, and the brotherhood of man, and now in peace it rests for us to stand for the indivisible nation, for liberty under and through the law, and for brotherhood in its widest, deepest and truest sense; the brotherhood which recognizes in each man a brother to be helped, which will not suffer wrong and will not inflict it. I wish to see the average American take in reference to his fellows the attitude that I wish to see America take among the nations of the world; the attitude of one who scorns equally to flinch from injustice by the strong and to do injustice to the weak. [Cheers and applause] You fought for liberty under the law, not liberty in spite of the law. Any man who claims that there can be liberty in spite of and against the law is claiming that anarchy is liberty. [Applause] From the beginning of time anarchy in all its forms has been the hand-maiden, the harbinger, of despotism and tyranny. We must remember ever that the surest way to overturn republican institutions, the surest way to do away with the essential democratic liberty that we enjoy, is to permit any one under any excuse to put the gratification of his passions over the law. The law, the supreme law of the land, must be obeyed by every man, rich or poor, alike. [Applause] Ours is a government of equal rights under the law, guaranteeing those rights to each man so long as he in his turn refrains from wronging his brother. We cannot exist as a republic unless we are true to the fundamental principles of those who founded the republic in '76, and those who perpetuated it in the years from '61 to '65. And if we remain true to the philosophy preached and practiced by Washington and Lincoln we cannot go far wrong. [Applause]

New problems come up all the time. The tremendous growth of our complex industrialism means that we have to face new conditions, that we enjoy new benefits, and must overcome new difficulties; but the spirit in which we must face them must be the old spirit which has won victory in military strife and under civic conditions since the dim days when history dawned. We can win only if we show the principles that made you win. You did not win by any patent device. You did not win in that way. There is not any patent device for getting the millennium, and any man who says that by following him, that by invoking some specific remedy, all injustice, and all evil, and all suffering will be done away with misleads himself and you. Something can be done by law. Much can be done by honest and fearless administration of the law; but in the long run the prime factor in deciding each man's success must be the sum of the man's individual qualities. We must work in combination. We must work together; but we must remember that no man can do anything with others unless he can do something for himself.

In the army you will remember that there was an occasional man whom nothing under heaven could have turned into a good soldier. [Laughter] You could train him, arm him, drill him, but on the important day he fell sick. [Laughter] If he stayed in action you had to watch him so narrowly for fear he got out that he simply distracted your attention from your legitimate business. You have got just the same type of man in civic life. And still each one of us must remember that any one may and will at times slip. There is not a man of us here who does not at times need a helping hand to be stretched out to him, and then shame upon him who will not stretch out the helping hand to his brother. While we must remember that—remember that every man at times stumbles and must be helped up, if he lies down you cannot carry him. He has got to be willing to walk. You can help him in but one way, the only way in which any man can be helped permanently—help him to help himself. [Applause]

We can solve aright all the difficult problems that come up because of and through our modern civilization, if we approach them in accordance with the immutable laws of righteousness and of common sense; if we treat each man on his worth as a man; if we demand from him, be he rich or poor, obedience to the law and just dealing toward his fellows; if we demand it and are scrupulously careful in return to do the right we demand; if we remember our duties just as keenly as we remember our rights.

Glad though I am to see all of you, to see the grown-ups, I think I am even gladder to see the children. [Applause] I was greeted by the high school in a way that made me feel perfectly certain that the nine and eleven had their parts in the curriculum. It is, of course, the merest truism to say that important though it is to develop factories, railroads, farms, commerce, the thing that counts is the development of citizenship; that the one thing that decides ultimately what the nation is, is the character of the average man or woman in the nation. That is what decides the future of the commonwealth; and I am very glad to see the kind of children and to see how many there are. [Applause] I like your stock and I am glad it is being kept up. [Applause]

I wish to say a special word of appreciation to those engaged in doing the most vitally necessary work in the community—the school teachers, all engaged in education. They are the people who are deciding, next only to the fathers and mothers themselves, what the future destiny of this country shall be. If we have the most marvelous material development that the world has ever seen, and yet if we train up the next generation wrong, that material development will be as dust and ashes in the balance; it will count for nothing and less than nothing. It is indispensable as a foundation, and it is worthless unless there is a superstructure upon it. I believe in you. I believe in your future. I believe in our future. I believe in our people, in the American people from one side of the continent to the other, because I believe that the fathers and mothers, the teachers of this generation, are bringing up the children, the boys and the girls, to be in the future such men and women as those who in the iron days of the Civil War left us a heritage of glory and honor forever. [Cheers and applause]

Theodore Roosevelt, Address at Pasadena, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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