Remarks in Dover, New Hampshire

August 26, 1902

I speak here in one of the oldest cities of the old thirteen colonies, from which sprang the United States; and both in your past and your present you epitomize much of the national life. We are all of us apt to get to talking and thinking of the nation and the state as abstractions. If we will think of ourselves and our neighbors, how we get along and how they get along, we will have a pretty fair idea of what can be done, simply on a larger scale in the nation and in the state.

We are here now, you are here now. I am addressing you all because of the great industrial expansion, symbolized by your factories, by the railroad, the telegraph and all of their attendants. We should not be here if it were not for them, but their exercise has caused great questions to rise in our national life. It is more complicated business, Mr. Mayor, to run this city than it was to run Dover when Dover consisted of a dozen log cabins. With the growth in wealth and in prosperity has come an accentuation of differences between man and man which do harm in two ways—which do harm when they make one man arrogant, which do equal harm when they make another man envious.

Our salvation now, as in the old days, lies in the practical applying of principles that, in theory, we admit to be the only principles according to which it is possible to administer this Republic—the principle of treating with man on his worth as a man; the principle of recognizing facts as they are, of recognizing our material needs and of recognizing further that nothing is to be hoped for from people who are content only to satisfy their material needs.

If we have not got in us the lift toward righteousness, the lift toward something better than material needs, prosperity will be a curse instead of a blessing. We need it, we need it as a foundation; we can't build a house without a foundation, but the foundation isn't the house; you have got to have the superstructure; you have got to have in addition to business energy, the thrift, industry, which has produced centers of industrial activity like this. You have to have, you must have, in addition the spirit that made the men of this neighborhood foremost in the Revolution; that made this state do her duty so well and so nobly in the Civil War, business energy, business thrift. We need other things, too; we have got to have a proper ideal of our lives; each man must do his duty by his neighbor, both in private life and to that representative of himself and of his neighbor—the state. And to that you need three qualities—you need more, but you need three, honesty above all, in the first place—you can do nothing without it—and that isn't enough. I don't care how honest a man is, if he is timid he is of very little use in the world; you have got to have courage as well as honesty. And that isn't enough. I don't care how brave and honest a man is, if he is a natural born fool you can do little with him.

In addition to honesty, in addition to courage, you need common sense; and sometimes one is tempted to think it much too uncommon a quality. You need those qualities in private life and you need them in public life. There are great problems ahead of us as a nation, but the really greatest problem is the problem of making better men and better women of all of us. I thank you for listening.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Dover, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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