Address at Santa Barbara, California

May 09, 1903

Judge, and You, My Fellow-Citizens, Men and Women of Santa Barbara:

It has been a great and singular pleasure to spend these three days in Southern California. I do not know that I ever before so thoroughly understood the phrase, "A garden of the Lord." That is what you are living in, and I do not wonder that you look happy and contented. I should think but ill of you if you ' were not. Today, for the first time in my life, I have seen the greatest of the oceans; I have come across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific; from the East to the West, and now west of the West, into California. I am particularly glad to be greeted here at Santa Barbara, by the men who wear afloat the uniform of Uncle Sam. [Applause] At every stop here in your State I am met by representatives of the Grand Army of the Republic, of the men to whom we owe it that because they showed their faith by their works when works meant blood and toil and effort well-nigh superhuman, because they did that, when I come here, I come to a people living under the same flag that floats from the gulf to the great lakes in the Eastern half of our land; it is because of what they did that there is a President to come here at all; it is because of what they did that when I come here I see the men from the United States Navy ashore here in California; it is because of what they did that when the war came in 1898, the great warship Oregon steamed southward from California around the cape, up the Atlantic in time to take part in the decisive victory off Santiago Harbor. The fundamental lesson to learn from one end of this country to the other is the essential unity of our people; and I speak here in a State which is what it now is because the pioneers who came here came with empire in their brains, came to pitch a new commonwealth by the side of the great ocean, as old world men pitched tents, because they were of a stock which, dared to be great, and we in our time now must dare to be great. Our country looks eastward across the Atlantic and westward across the Pacific, across to that West which is the hoary East, from the Occident west to the Orient. [Applause] I fail to see how any son of this country, worthy to be descended from the men of '6i to '65—the men who upheld the statesmanship of Lincoln and who followed to victory Grant and Sherman and Thomas and Sheridan—I fail to see how any true son of theirs can in his turn fail to welcome with eager joy the chance to make this country greater even than it has been before. Of course we have great tasks before us. The man who has not got great tasks to do cannot achieve greatness. Greatness only comes because the task to be done is great. The men who lead lives of mere ease, of mere pleasure, the men who go through life seeking how to avoid trouble, to avoid risk, to avoid effort, to them it is not given to achieve greatness. Greatness comes only to those who seek not how to avoid obstacles, but how to overcome them. [Applause]

Here I speak in a region where there remain memorials of an older civilization than ours, of a civilization that was in California three-quarters of a century before the first hardy people of the new stock crossed the desert, crossed the mountain chains, or came by ships up from the isthmus, and I want to congratulate you upon the way in which you are perpetuating the memorials of that elder civilization. It is a fine thing in a new community to try to keep alive the continuity of historic interests; it is a fine thing to try to remember the background which even those of us who are most confident of the future may be pleased to see existed in the past; and I am pleased to see how in your architecture, both in the architecture of new and great buildings going up, and in the architecture of the old buildings, and in many other ways, you are, by keeping the touch and flavor of the older civilization, giving a peculiar flavor to our own new civilization, and in an age when the tendency is a trifle toward too great uniformity. [Applause]

I wonder whether you really appreciate how beautiful your country is. Sometimes people grow so familiar with their surroundings that they fail entirely to appreciate them. I had read and heard of the marvelous beauty of Southern California, the beauty of your climate, the wonderful fertility of your soil, but I had not realized it; I could not realize it until I saw it. It seems to me as though there could not be another spot on the world's surface blessed in quite the same way that this has been blessed. And now, my fellow-citizens, so much has been given to you, so much must of right be expected from you. As you have for your good fortune been placed down in this beautiful region with its wonderful climate, with its soil, with all the chance for development that it offers, so we have a right to expect a particularly high type of American citizenship from you. In the long run, mind you, that is what counts. I have been delighted to see the orange groves, to see your olive orchards, to see all the marvelous products of this soil, the products temperate and semi-tropic. Of course, in the last analysis the material prosperity of any country rests more even than upon its manufactures, its commerce, or its mines, upon what is successfully accomplished by the tillers of the soil, upon the products of the soil; and our material well-being depends in the long run more than upon anything else upon what we develop agriculturally; so that I congratulate you upon that. I congratulate you upon your wonderful material prosperity; but it is only the foundation for the higher life of citizenship, and it can be no more. It is indispensable as a foundation of course; the house cannot be built unless the foundation is broad and deep; we cannot develop the higher life unless we have the material prosperity, the physical well-being upon which to develop it. . But we are not to be excused if we fail to go on and build the superstructure of intellectual, moral, spiritual growth upon the well-being of the body. In introducing me, Judge, you spoke of the problems that confront our civilization from within and from without. The problems differ from generation to generation, but the qualities that are needed to solve them remain unchanged from world's end to world's end. The qualities needed to solve aright the problems of today are the same qualities that were needed by the men who in 1861 found themselves confronted with the question of whether or not this country should remain all united and free, or divided and partially unfree, and we can solve, and we will solve all the questions that come up if we approach them in the spirit with which Abraham Lincoln and the men of his generation approached the mighty task that the Lord had set them to do, if we approach them with his courage, his patience, his resolution and his sane and human common sense. The lessons that you taught—you men of the great war—applied not only in war, but apply in peace. You sought the lesson of brotherhood first. Was there ever brotherhood closer than the brotherhood of those who marched to battle together, who fought together, who lay out in the frozen mud of the winter trenches together, and who saw the brightest and best of those around them give up their young lives under battle, under bayonet, or on the fever cots of the hospitals ? No brother could be closer than that. How did you work out your problems there? You worked them out fundamentally by standing each on his worth as a man. You worked them out by treating the man on your right and the man on your left according to what they proved themselves to be without regard to any adventitious or accidental outside circumstances. Take the man on the right hand or the man on the left—little you cared for his wealth; little you cared for his social position; small was your concern as to the creed according to which he worshiped his Maker. What did concern you was to know whether his mettle would ring true on war's red touchstone. That is what was of vital consequence to you. If he had that in him; if he had the iron will, the spirit that drove him forward over defeat to the ultimate triumph, all else was of small consequence. [Applause]

The same thing is true of citizenship now. There is not any patent device by which we can get good government. There is not any way by which we can alter or reshape the general scheme of things, by which we can avoid the necessity of practicing the old, humdrum, everyday, commonplace virtues, for the lack of which in the individual as in the nation, no brilliancy, no genius, can ever atone. As a nation and individually we must show the fundamental qualities of hardihood, courage, manliness, of decency, morality, clean living, fair dealing as between man and man, of common sense, the saving grace of common sense. W e must show the qualities which made us as a nation able to free ourselves in 1776, able to preserve our national existence in 1861; and if we fail to show them we will go down; and because we will show them we will make of this country the mightiest upon which the sun has ever shone. [Applause]

New methods must be devised for meeting the various problems that come up. Our complex industrial civilization with its great concentration of population and of capital in cities, with its extraordinary increase in the rapidity and ease of communication, alike communication of news an transportation—that complex civilization has brought new problems before us. It has brought much of good and some evil; but it has not altered in the slightest the need for the old, fundamental virtues. The men of '61 fought for liberty under the law, liberty by and through the law. They fought to establish the principle that the law was supreme; that no man, great or small, stood above it or without it; that no man could violate it, and that no man could be denied its protection. Now in civil life no man can be allowed to put himself above the law, the law that is to check greed and violence, that is to put a stop to every form of outrage by one man against another, the law under and through which alone can we preserve republican institutions and democratic liberty. The violence that accompanies license is the hand-maiden of tyranny, and has throughout the world's history proved but the harbinger of despotism. You, of the great war, forever established the fact that there should be no appeal to sectional hate in this country, and just as evil is it to strive to arouse any spirit of antagonism based upon class or creed. Any form of hatred of one's neighbor is hostile to the spirit of our government, whether it take the shape of the arrogance which looks down upon those who are less well off, which would oppress those less able to protect themselves, or the rancor and envy which regard with jealous ill will those who are better off. Either feeling is unworthy of American freemen. [Applause]

I make my appeal to you, my fellow-citizens, in the name of those qualities which underlie the very existence of our form of government. I ask for brotherhood. I ask for the willingness of each to help the other; for the readiness of men to act in combination for the common good; but I ask you also, as you will not inflict wrong, so not to suffer it. I ask you to remember that though the law can do something, that though the honest administration of the law can do more, that though something more can be done by acting in organization, in combination, with one's fellows privately, yet that in the long run, in the ultimate analysis, each man's success must rest upon the sum of that man's individual qualities. That is the determining factor in the end as to whether the man rises or falls.

Every one of you veterans knows that in the war there were some men who would not by training or any arming make good soldiers. If the man did not have the stuff in him it was not there to get out of him. [Applause] It is just so in citizenship. There is not a man of us who does not at times slip or stumble, and in that case it speaks ill of any one who fails to reach out a helping hand to his brother; but if a man lies down you cannot carry him. You can help a man only in the way which alone is of real ultimate help—you can help him to help himself. He has got to have it in him to make the effort, to strive. He has got to have in him the qualities which will make him a good husband, a good father, a good neighbor, a man who deals justly by others, and does his duty by the State. If he has not got it in him, you cannot help him. He will remain to the end a drag upon himself and upon every one else. I ask that we keep that in mind; that we remember our obligations to ourselves and to the country, and that we steadfastly strive to raise ever higher the average of individual citizenship, for if that average is high enough, scant need be our concern as to the fate of the State. I believe in your future, I believe in our future, because I believe with all my heart that in the future all America will raise the standard of individual citizenship; that we will raise that standard not merely in body and in mind, but in that which counts for more than body, for more than mind, in character—character, upon which ultimately rests the fate of every nation. [Cheers and applause]

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

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