Address at Truckee, California

May 19, 1903

Mr. Chairman and My Fellow-Citizens:

I want to thank you for coming out to greet me. Most of all, I wish to thank the men of the Grand Army who are present. It has been a peculiarly pleasant thing wherever I have been in California to be greeted by some of those men to whose actions we owe it that there is now a common country of ours or a President over it. [Applause] It has always seemed to me that we should profit by the lessons that they taught, not merely in war, but in peace. In speaking to you here in this great and wonderful State of California, with its marvelously diversified industries, with its irrigated agriculture in the south, with its agriculture carried on in ordinary fashion in the north, its pasturage, its mines, its commerce, its manufactures, its wonderful railroad development, I speak to a community which has risen and gone forward because of the type of character, the type of manhood and womanhood among its sons and daughters.

The lesson to be learned from the men of the Civil War is the lesson of resolute endeavor for a worthy cause. I would not preach to any man the life of ease, the life of safety only. Instead of the life of ease I preach to all worthy to be called men, the life of work, the life of endeavor, and instead of the life of safety I preach the doctrine that teaches us now as it taught the men of the Civil War, that there are times when safety is the last thing to be considered. [Applause] Here in America, throughout our country, what we need are the virtues of the pioneers, and among the pioneers I put high the pioneers of the churches who went hand in hand to do the work of the Lord with their fellow-men. You need various qualities to make a State great, a nation great, just as you needed those qualities to make an army great. No one of them will suffice. In the first place, you must have the base of morality, of decency, love of country, love of friends, the quality that makes a man a good father, a good neighbor, a decent citizen. You need that first, just as in the Civil War you needed to have patriotism first, love of country, the spirit that drove you to think nothing of ease, nothing of comfort, but to go out to do the work of the nation when that nation called, when Abraham Lincoln summoned you to battle; but that was not enough. I do not care how patriotic a man was, if he ran away you could do nothing with him. It is the same way here in civil life. I wish a man to be decent, a square man, a fair dealing man, but he has got to be a man also or you cannot do much with him. He has got to have courage, hardihood, power to work, power to hold his own, to do whatever his hands find to do, he has got to have that or he will not amount to much. He has got to have it in him to make his own way or he is a weakling and will fall by the wayside. In addition to the qualities of decency, of honesty, there must be the qualities of manliness, of hardihood, the qualities that sent the pioneers across the trackless wastes, the quality that sends the soldier to battle, the quality that ?makes a man discontented and ill at ease if he cannot do his work well on the farm, in the shops, wherever his work is. You need those and you need something in addition, for I do not care how brave a man is, how honest he is, if he is a fool you can do nothing with him. He needs the saving grace of common sense to help him out, to make his work count.

There is another lesson taught by the men who wore the blue—the lesson of brotherhood; brotherhood in its broadest sense; brotherhood that does not recognize the difference of sections' and that recognizes just as little the difference of class, that treats a man on his worth as a man, and if he is square stands by him; if he is not square is against him, and recognizes other distinctions as accidental, not fundamental. One lesson of that brotherhood is the self-respect that respects others. In the army, from the lieutenant-general down to the last newly enlisted recruit, the thing that concerned you was how the man did his duty in his place, and not what that place was. There are in this country a thousand different shapes of work. We have got to do them all, and we can do them well only if we recognize the need that each work should be well done; whether the man is a business man, a lawyer, a fanner, a railroad man, a mechanic, matters nothing. What matters is, does he do his work and his duty well? Is he a square man and a brave man, a good citizen, a good neighbor, a man whom you are glad to have associate with you as an American? If he is, he is a good citizen and entitled to honor; if he is not, I care not whether he be high or low in social standing or in wealth, he is a bad citizen and a curse to the State. All kinds of honorable work entitle those following them to honor. For the last few weeks and for the next few, every minute and every hour my safety depends upon how the railroad men do their work. Naturally, I take a peculiar interest in them. But we must take the same interest in all men who do their work well. If a man does his duty he is a good citizen and we should be proud of him.

Just let me ask you one word especially to the railroad men. I recollect the last time I ever met General Sherman he told me that if he had to raise an army composed purely of one class he would take railroad men because they developed four or five qualities that counted more than anything else, qualities of taking risks, of irregular hours (so that to be up at night does not strike them with horror), of accepting responsibility, and yet of obeying orders, and obeying them at once, not wondering whether to turn the switch then or later, but turning it then, and in consequence the men who have had that training will make good soldiers, and when you make a really good soldier you will make a good citizen. We cannot all be railroad men, but we can all be good citizens and show the same type of quality.

I am glad to see all of you, but perhaps I am most glad to see the children. [Cheers and applause]

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

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