Address at San Jose, California

May 11, 1903

Mr. Mayor, and You, Men and Women, My Fellow-Citizens, My Fellow-Americans:

It is a great pleasure to greet you today, to speak to the citizens of this beautiful city in this great and fertile valley and county. Ever since our train came into the Santa Clara Valley it has been as though we were passing through a garden. [Applause] I do not wonder at the products, now that I have seen the place. This is one of the famous agricultural counties of the whole country. In hardly any other county has work quite of your kind been done in the raising of deciduous fruits, notably prunes. (Laughter and applause.) Your city is bound to grow because your county is bound to grow, and of course the city will grow where the country tributary to it produces so much. But there was something that pleased me even more than the prunes, and that was the school houses as I passed. (Laughter and applause.)

Here in this county you have many notable educational institutions. I understand that you have the oldest normal school in the State; that Santa Clara is the oldest college; you also have the University of the Pacific, the Lick Observatory and Leland Stanford University; and above all, that upon which all the higher education rests—the common school educational system of the State. It is a fine thing, an absolutely necessary thing, to have a foundation of material well-being upon which to build the higher life; but it is equally indispensable that upon that foundation the higher life shall be built. I congratulate you that in your care for the body you have not forgotten to care for the higher, the intellectual, the spiritual side of man. I have been greeted here as I have been greeted throughout California

by the men of the great Civil War, the veterans to whom we owe it to that there is a country for you and me to be proud of today. They, by their lives, by the record of their deeds, teach us in more practical fashion than it can be taught by any preaching, for they teach us by practice, that in the ultimate analysis the greatness of a nation is to be measured not by the output of its industrial products, not by its material prosperity, not by the products of the farm, factory, business house, but by the products of its citizenship, by the men and women that that nation produces. [Applause]

When Sumter's guns thundered on that April morning in '61 no amount of industrial prosperity unaccompanied by the lift toward higher things could have saved the nation. We had then come to one of those great crises of national affairs when the need was for the elemental virtues of mankind to be displayed, when it was too late to appeal to mechanical ingenuity, mechanical inventiveness, business capacity on the greater or on the lesser scale, when nothing could save us but the manhood of the men and the womanhood of the women, when we had to rely upon the man who went to battle and upon the woman to whom fell the harder task of staying at home, with brother or lover, father or husband gone to the front, left without the breadwinner, to work her way as best she could, and to endure, in addition, the sickening anxiety for the loved ones who were in the forefront of the battle. We had to depend upon the men who, when the final call was made, were willing to count everything, life itself, as dross in the scale compared with their eager championship of national honor, of the unity of the flag, the sacredness of the republic—the men whose one ambition it was to spend and be spent when Abraham Lincoln called, and to follow the flag of Grant, of Sherman, of Thomas, of Sheridan and Farragut through the years of alternating victory and defeat until over the hills of disaster they saw the sunset of triumph at Appomattox. [Cheers and applause]

The problems that confront us from generation to generation change. The methods of solution for each problem must be sought out carefully in order that that problem may be solved aright; but the fundamental qualities needed by the men of today are those that were needed by the men of yesterday, and they will be the same that in their turn the men of tomorrow will need. There is no patent substitute for the fundamental virtues. Nothing can make good citizenship in men who have not got in them courage, hardihood, decency, sanity, the spirit of truth-telling and truth-seeking, the spirit that dares and endures, the spirit that knows what it is to have a lofty ideal, and yet to endeavor to realize that ideal in practical fashion. [Applause] That is why I congratulate you upon the care you are paying to your educational system, to the training of the young. Of course there are natures which no training can develop, because if the stuff is not there nothing can be made out of them. But training will make a good citizen a better citizen. Training when applied to raw material will do good to that raw material.

I congratulate you, I congratulate all our people, upon the realization shown by California of the fact that though the interests of the body are great, the interests of the soul are greater; that though we must take care of the first—we are not to be excused if we fail to show thrift, energy, business intelligence, the power of hard work for material ends—we are not to be excused if we fail to show those qualities, yet that those qualities cannot by themselves suffice, that to them we must add others. The body should be trained; even more should the mind be trained; and most of all should we train character; character, into which so many elements enter; but three above all—decency, the spirit of fair dealing, of decent behavior in the family, in the neighborhood, towards the State; and to decency to be added courage, the spirit that dares and endures and does and to both to be added the saving grace of common sense. I congratulate you upon your thought for the next generation, for California's greatness. The greatness of the Union in the future will depend upon the kind of men and women who act as your heirs.

If they are not the right kind they will mar and spoil the heritage you have left; and that heritage can be kept as it should and will be kept, because the boys and girls of today are being trained to become fit citizens of tomorrow.

In closing I want to thank you and to say how I have enjoyed being here in California. Above all things, I have enjoyed the knowledge that coming across this continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the East to the West, and now west of the West into California—for California stands by itself [applause]—wherever I have been addressing any audience I have been able to make my appeal to the men and women to whom I speak purely as Americans speaking to them as Americans, and as nothing else. [Applause] You, the men of the great war, fought to put an end once for all to the evil spirit of sectional hatred. No man is a good American—I could put that stronger—the worst enemy of American institutions is the man who seeks to excite one set of Americans against their fellow-Americans. [Cheers and applause] And it matters nothing whether the appeal is made in the fancied interest of a class, of a creed, or of a section, the man is a traitor to our institutions and spirit who makes it. We can make this government a success only by proceeding in accordance with its fundamental proposition and treating each man, Northerner or Southerner, Easterner or Westerner, whatever his birthplace, whatever his creed, his occupation, his means, as a man and as nothing else. [Applause] I believe in you, I believe in the future of this State, I believe in the future of this nation, because I am sure that ultimately, no matter what may be any temporary swerving, our people will consent to no other base for the management of this government, and will insist invariably in the long run that we remain true to the principles of those who with Washington founded the government, and those who with Lincoln preserved the government and made this a nation of freemen, each guaranteed his rights, each prevented from wronging any one else and each assured of his being treated exactly as his conduct entitles him to be treated. [Cheers and applause]

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

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives