William Howard Taft

Address at the Rodelph Shalom Temple in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 29, 1909

My dear Friends:

I do not claim to conform very strictly to religious observances, but it has remained for the city of Pittsburg to bring me to church, both on Saturday and on Sunday.

I esteem it a great privilege to appear before this intelligent and patriotic audience—at the instance of your leader, your Rabbi, who was a warm friend of my predecessor, and who, I am glad to think, has transferred his friendship for the time to me.

I am not altogether out of place in a Jewish tabernacle, for the church that I attended in Cincinnati, in my boyhood and young manhood, was immediately next to the Jewish tabernacle of the Reverend Dr. Wise; and there were times in the history of both churches when there was an exchange between the pulpits. I am glad to be here this morning—this beautiful morning and in this beautiful church—to show if possible by my presence how this is a Government of all the people, and how the Constitutional provision that there shall be no religious requirement or qualification for office or citizenship in this country is evidenced by the presence of the President of the United States in a Jewish tabernacle, where he feels himself as much at home and with as much support as he does in any other church in the country.

The prayer to which we just listened, full of that liberality and love of humankind, makes one feel ashamed of all narrowness and bigotry in religion, and it gives me the greatest pleasure to say, as I do from the bottom of my heart, that never in the history of the country, in any crisis and under any conditions, have our Jewish fellow citizens failed to live up to the highest standard of citizenship and patriotism.

I thank your Rabbi, and I thank you, for the opportunity to appear before you and say this much. I am not a preacher. I am not in the habit of appearing in pulpits. It was not until I returned from the Philippines that I appeared once in a Presbyterian pulpit, once in an Episcopalian pulpit, once in a Unitarian pulpit, and now before a Jewish audience in the pulpit of a Jewish tabernacle. That makes a round, I think, that justifies my saying that I hope to be the President of all the people, and to have your support, as you have given it to my predecessors, without stint and with every desire to make this a great country and a great Government.

APP Note: The original document uses the spelling "Pittsburg" throughout. The APP has modified the spelling in the title, but has maintained the original source's spelling in the speech text. In addition, the contemporary spelling of the congregation appears to be "Rodef Shalom".

William Howard Taft, Address at the Rodelph Shalom Temple in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/365240

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