Remarks at Barstow, California

May 07, 1903

My Fellow-Citizens:

This is the first time I have ever been to California, and I cannot say to you how much I have looked forward to making the trip. I can tell you now with absolute certainty that I will have enjoyed it to the full when I get through.

I have felt that the events of the last five or six years have been steadily hastening the day when the Pacific will loom in the world's commerce as the Atlantic now looms, and I have wished greatly to see these marvelous communities growing up on the Pacific Slope. There are plenty of things that to you seem matters of course, that I have read about and know about from reading, and yet when I see them they strike me as very wonderful—the way the railroads have been thrust across the deserts, until now we come to the border of that wonderful flower land, the wonderful land of your State.

One thing that strikes me more than anything else as I go through the country—as I said I have never been on the Pacific Slope; the Rocky Mountain States and the States of the great plains I know quite as well as I know the Eastern seaboard; I have worked with the men, played with them, fought with them; I know them all through—the thing that strikes me most as I go through this country and meet the men and women of the country, is the essential unity of all Americans. Down at bottom we are the same people all through. [Applause] That is not merely a unity of section, it is a unity of class. For my good fortune I have been thrown into intimate relationship, into intimate personal friendship, with many men of many different occupations, and my faith is firm that we shall come unscathed out of all our difficulties here in America, because I think that the average American is a decent fellow, and that the prime thing in getting him to get on well with the other average American is to have each remember that the other is a decent fellow, and try to look at the problems a little from the other's standpoint. [Applause]

I am speaking here to the men who have done their part in the tremendous development of this country—railroad men, the ranchers, the people who have built up this country. Something can be done by law to help in such development, something can be done by the administration of the law; but in the last analysis we have to rely upon the average citizenship of the country to work out the salvation of the nation. [Applause] Back of the law stands the man; just exactly as in battle it is the man behind the gun that counts most, even more than the gun. [Applause] So it is the man and woman, it is the average type of manhood and womanhood, that makes the State great in the end. In the individual nothing can take the place of his own qualities; in the community nothing can take the place of the qualities of the average citizen. The law can do something, but the law never yet made a fool wise or a coward brave or a weakling strong. The law can endeavor to secure a fair show for every man so far as it is in the wit of man to secure such a fair show, but it must then remain for the man himself to show the stuff there is in him; and if the stuff is not in him, you cannot get it out of him. [Applause]

I believe in the future of this country because I believe in the men and women whom we are developing in the country. I am more glad than I can say for being in California. I thank you for coming out here to greet me. I wish you well with all my heart for the future. [Cheers and applause]

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

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