Remarks on Board the Kearsarge During the Review of the Fleet

August 17, 1903

Officers and enlisted men:

I wish to say a word of thanks to you on behalf of the people of the United States. There are many public servants whom I hold in high esteem, but there are no others whom as a class I hold in quite the esteem I do the officers and enlisted men of the navy and the army of the United States.

In doing your work here it should all be done with an eye toward the day when upon every man, from the admiral to the lowest in rank, may rest the responsibility as to whether or not a new page of honor in American history shall be turned. As I passed the Olympia I re membered her victory of May 1, 1898, which made her name forever one of renown in our history. But all aboard her had been equipped for the work by days and months, usually by years, of what must have often been irksome duty. In speaking to all of you I want a chance to say a word of special recognition to the gun pointers. The shots that tell are the shots that hit. They are what make the navy prove itself equal to any need. I am happy to say that the American seamen have never been found deficient in the fighting edge—the first requisite of the fighting men. I do not praise you for being brave; that is expected. The coward is to be condemned rather than the brave man to be praised. I expect every one to show a perfect willingness to die rather than to see the slightest stain put upon the American flag. But in addition you must know how to use to the utmost advantage the gear and the weapons. You must know how to fight as well as know how to die; only thus can you become the most efficient fighting force in the world. I again thank you for what you are. A peculiar responsibility attaches to each and every one of you. It has been a pleasure to see the ship and the guns, but, above all, the men behind the guns.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks on Board the Kearsarge During the Review of the Fleet Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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