Address at Ventura, California

May 09, 1903

Senator Bard, and You, My Fellow-Citizens, My Fellow-Americans:

I have enjoyed to the full the time I have spent in your wonderful and beautiful State. Just now I have for the first time in my life seen the greatest of all the oceans. [Applause] When I come here to California I am not in the West, I am west of the West. It is just California. And yet, oh, my fellow-countrymen, the thing after all that strikes me most is the fact that when I speak to you who dwell beside the Pacific, I, who have come from beside the Atlantic, am speaking to my own people, with the same thoughts and the same ideals. [Applause] How could it be otherwise in a community where I am greeted first by the men of the Grand Army, by the men who, in the days that tried men's souls, so worked and so fought that today we have one country and one flag; and each of us here, each man and each woman, is walking with head erect because of citizenship in the proudest and greatest republic upon which the sun has ever shone? [Applause]

This is the third day that I have been traveling among the people who, as the Sehator said, are primarily tillers of the soil, whose cities have been built up because of the abundant yield of the soil thus tilled, and I have had the experience that all of us have had who read about things in advance, and yet cannot quite realize them until they see them. I had known from hearsay and from books of the wonderful fertility, the wonderful beauty, of this semi-tropical climate and soil, but I had not realized all that it was until I saw it myself. I am now for the third day passing through a veritable little earthly paradise. I do not wonder that you look happy. I should be ashamed of you if you did not, I have been, of course, amazed at the yield of your soil, treated as it has been with such wisdom and industry by those who have tilled it, showing especially the amount that can be done by irrigation, the amount that can be done by a combination of scientific and practical agriculture, at your oranges, at the growth of the beet-sugar industries, at all your fruit products, at all your agricultural products. I have also been glad to see such good horses.

I want to say a word of special greeting to my friends over yonder, of the school, who are on horseback. You know the old idea of education was to teach a boy to ride, shoot, and tell the truth. Now we want to teach him something besides that, but he wants to know those three things also. Of course, if he does not tell the truth then nothing can be done with him in any way or shape. You can pardon most anything in a man who will tell the truth, because you know where that man is; you know what he means. If any one lies, if he has the habit of untruthfulness, you cannot deal with him, because there is nothing to depend on. You cannot tell what can be done with him or by his aid. Truth telling is a virtue upon which we should not only insist in the schools and at home, but in business and in politics just as much. [Applause] The business man or politician who does not tell the truth cheats; and for the cheat we should have no use in any walk of life. [Applause]

I wish, Senator Bard, speaking from this building, to thank especially the teachers for what they have done. While, of course, each man and each woman must remember that no one can relieve them from their duties in educating their children, yet their work must be supplemented by that of the teachers; and it must be work done not merely for the sake of the wage, but for the sake of doing the work, if the next generation is to be worthy of the generation that fought in the Civil War. [Applause] I wish to express always the debt of gratitude which all good citizens must feel that we owe to the men and women who make their special work the training of the children. Our whole future, of course, depends primarily upon how the next generation turns out. All of the agricultural improvements, all of the cultivation of the soil, all of the building up of cities and railroads, all the growth of commerce, all the growth of manufactures, will count for nothing if you have not got the right type of men and women in the future. It is upon that that ultimately the fate of the nation depends.

I was greeted here by the pioneers, the men who first came here. They could come here, our people could come here, and conquer this continent only because of the individual worth of the average citizen, because the average pioneer had in him the quality which made him fit to do battle with, and to overcome, wild man and wild nature. We are here upon the foundations of an old colony which had been in existence well-nigh three quarters of a century before the people of our stock came to California. That old colony represented much for which we have to be grateful, and I am glad to see every effort made to cherish the memories of that time, to keep alive what was best in it, but at the same time we must remember the obvious truth that in the half century that followed the advent of the first people of our stock here, this country progressed a thousand-fold more rapidly than it had in the preceding three-quarters of a century. It thus progressed primarily because of the individual quality of the men who came into it. [Applause] And it will progress in the future only on condition that we keep up to the highest standard that quality of individual citizenship; and that can be kept up only if the boys and girls of today are so trained that the men and women of the future shall come up to the highest standard demanded in American life. Trained in body? Of course I believe in that emphatically. I wish to see our people hardy, vigorous, strong, able to hold their own in whatever test may arise. I wish to see them able to work and able to play hard. I believe in play, and I like to see people play hard while they play, and when they work I do not want to see them play at all.

That is good sense for the younger people and good sense for the older people. If I had any word of advice (which is a very cheap commodity) to give to you I should say: Get all the enjoyment you legitimately can out of life, but remember that the only sure way of getting in the end no enjoyment out of life, is to start in to make it the end of your existence. The poorest life that any one can live from the standpoint of pleasure is the life that has nothing but pleasure as its end and aim. While I hope that as the chance occurs each man will get all the fun he can out of life, remember that when it comes not merely to looking back upon it, but to living it, the kind of life that is worth living is the kind of life that is embodied in duty worth doing which is well done. [Applause] I want to see the children brought up with strong bodies. I wish them to have strong minds, and I wish them to have that which counts for more than body, for more than mind—character; character, into which many elements enter, but above all, the three, of honesty, of courage and of common sense. [Cheers and applause]

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

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