Remarks at Berenda, California

May 18, 1903

My Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

I am glad to have the chance of saying a word to you of this wonderful and fertile valley, the San Joaquin Valley (cheers and applause); and even glimpses I have got of it have made me appreciate its fertility. I am glad that the soil and the climate here are such as to give us that indispensable base of material prosperity, the foundation upon which we must rest, but, gentlemen and ladies, the thing that pleases me most, even more than the crops, is the men and women I meet. [Applause] I believe in your future, because I believe in you—not only in the climate and the soil. You can take the best climate and the best soil and put a poor, shiftless, trifling creature on the soil and you do not get any results. To take advantage of the greatest opportunities you must have the men. I fail to see how any public man cannot believe in the future of this country after he has gone, as I have gone, from one side of the continent to the other, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and has met audiences everywhere to whom he can appeal in the name of the fundamental virtues of American citizenship, fundamental virtues that go to make up good men and good women everywhere, and have gone to make them up since time began. I believe not in brilliancy, not in genius, I believe in the ordinary, humdrum, work-a-day virtues that make a man a good man in his family, a good neighbor, a good man to deal with in business, a good man to deal with in the State, and when you have got a man with those characteristics in him you have a man who if the need comes will rise level to that need. There are any number of different kinds of work that we have to do, all of which have to be done. There is the work of the farmer, the work of the business man, the work of the skilled mechanic, the work of the men to whom I owe my safety every day and every night—the work of the railroad men; the work of the lawyer, the work of the sailor, the work of the soldier, the work in ten thousand ways; it is all good work; it does not make any difference what work the man is doing if he does it well. If the man is a slack, shiftless creature I wish we could get rid of him. He is of no use. In every occupation you will find some men whom you will have to carry. You cannot do much with them. Every one of us will stumble at times, and shame to the man who does not at such times stretch out a helping hand, but if the man lies down you cannot carry him to any permanent use. What I would plead for is that we recognize that fact, that we bring up our children to work, so that each respects the other. I do not care whether a man is a banker or a bricklayer; if he is a good banker or a good bricklayer he is a good citizen; if he is dishonest, if he is tricky, if he shirks his job or tries to cheat his neighbor, be he great or small, be he the poor man cheating the rich man, or the rich man oppressing the poor man, in either case he is a bad citizen. I thank you and want to say what a pleasure it has been to see you here this evening. [Cheers and applause]

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

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