Address at the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Y.M.C.A. Auxiliary Clubhouse in Vallejo, California

May 14, 1903

Mrs. McCalla, and You, My Fellow-Citizens:

I am glad to have the chance of taking part in these ceremonies, for no worthier object can be striven after than the creation of a building such as this for the benefit of those to whom every American owes so much—the enlisted men of the United States navy. [Cheers and applause] I wish here to relate something told me yesterday by Secretary Moody, which shows the spirit that actuates the men of our navy. In visiting the hospital at Mare Island yesterday Secretary Moody found that there was a little library of two hundred standard novel's, and a sum of money with interest amounting to $30 a year to be spent on magazines, all for the use of the patients, for the use of the enlisted men in that hospital, and he found that that was due to the action of a man now dead, who had served twenty-five years in the United States navy, had become a boatswain, and when he died had left all his small savings to be thus devoted in perpetuity to the use of his fellows who should need the hospital thereafter. His name was Alexander White, and Secretary Moody told me he intended to find out where he was buried and put a fitting stone over him if he had to pay for it himself. [Applause] That is the spirit of devotion to the flag and the country, and to one's fellows which the United States navy develops.

I wish to take this opportunity of thanking the men who work in the Navy Yard for the quality of the work that they do.

[Cheers and applause] It has been a pleasure to hear from Admiral Miller as we came up on the torpedo boat the kind of service rendered by those engaged in the actual labor in the yard. I want to emphasize what we can never over-emphasize, that the credit for any victory must lie exactly as much with those who prepare for it as with those who win it. [Applause]

Today I have dedicated the monument to those who won the battle of Manila Bay. That monument is in reality dedicated just as much to the men who in any degree helped make ready the ships for that battle, to the Congressmen who voted the appropriations; and those who did not, by the way, have no right to any share whatever in the credit attached to the nation for that day, to the Congressmen who voted the appropriations, to the Cabinet officials and their subordinates, the heads of the bureaus in the Navy Department, under whom and in accordance with the directions of whom the money was expended, the owners of the private shipyards, to the men who worked in the private shipyards and to the men who worked in the national shipyards, any man who did his part at any stage in preparing the hulls, the engines, the armor, the guns of those ships, and all men who took part in training the crews aboard them, the men in the engine rooms, the men at the guns, in fitting them for service, to all alike some portion of the credit of the victory is due. Let me repeat what I said this morning. I am glad that we have the chance to erect a monument to commemorate a naval victory of the United States, and let us see to it that our children have the chance to erect a similar monument, should the need arise, in their turn. In other words, let us see to it that the work of building up the United States navy goes on without a halt. [Cheers and applause]

I thank those who have provided for the building of this institution. When a war comes I think a heavier burden is laid upon the women whose sons and husbands, fathers and lovers have gone to the war than upon the men who go. It was certainly so in the Civil War, where the woman was left at home with the breadwinner gone, to face often need as well as the anxiety for his safety; and it is but a further debt we owe now for the building of institutions of this kind. They do incalculable good. I do not know of anything that has done, any one work of benevolence of the same extent which was better worth doing than that done by Miss Helen Gould when she erected a building similar to this in the New York Navy Yard; and I am glad to have had the chance of laying the corner stone of this building today. I thank you for coming to greet me. I thank especially my own comrades of the Spanish-American War, those who fought in that war, and those by whose example we profited—the men of the Great War, the men who have left to this country a heritage of honor and glory forever. [Cheers and applause]

Theodore Roosevelt, Address at the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Y.M.C.A. Auxiliary Clubhouse in Vallejo, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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