Remarks in Everett, Washington

May 23, 1903

Mr. Mayor, Mr. Governor, and fellow citizens:

It is with great pleasure that I have come to this astonishing new city here by Puget Sound. I am a pretty good Westerner; I am accustomed to seeing extraordinary growth, but what I have seen today has astonished me. I do not believe that even you yourselves realize how great the future is that stretches before this country, that stretches before this State. In half a century we shall see grouped around Puget Sound not one or two, but a dozen cities, each of which in an older civilization would be accepted as the capital of a large commonwealth. Think of having a Sound with about fifteen hundred miles of possible dockage! No wonder you look happy and contented. I would be ashamed of you if you were not.

In greeting you let me say a word or two of special greeting; in the first place to the Grand Army—ever and always a word of special greeting to them, because if it were not for what they and their fellows did in the early sixties you and I would not be here now. You would not have any one country with one President over it. It is because of what they did that the President of the United States can travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Rio Grande to the forty-ninth parallel and be at home everywhere.

I want to thank the men of the National Guard who have acted as escort; some of the members of your National Guard were comrades of mine in the lesser war of '98, where our trouble was not what troubled the men of '61 to '65; for the trouble with us was that there was not enough war to go around.

Now a special word of greeting to the future—the children. It has pleased me particularly traveling through this State, with its marvelous future, to see how, in addition to taking advantage of the present to the utmost, the citizens of the State are seeing to it that the boys and girls of today shall have the kind of training that will fit them to be men and women of tomorrow, able to carry on the work that you yourselves have done. It is a great thing to have such marvelous physical advantages as you have here in Washington; it is a great thing to have this extraordinary Sound, unmatched in the entire world for the advantage of commercial intercourse which it bestows, to have your rivers, your forests, your possibilities of agriculture, of manufacturing, of lumbering; it is a great thing to have the physical qualities of soil and climate, the physical configuration of the country which bestows such privileges; but they would all be wasted if you did not have the right kind of men and women to take advantage of them.

What I congratulate you most upon is the type of citizenship which you have produced. I ask that in using your great advantages you use them with an eye to the future, use them, but keep them also for your children in the future. This is a town hewed right out of the forest, a manufacturing town, a commercial town, and a town connected, as so many of the other cities along this coast are, with the lumbering interests.

I see throughout Washington and Oregon two great interests—the lumbering and the fishing interests. It is most important that you should carry on your work in a way that will keep for your successors the advantages you enjoy; when it comes to mining you take the metal out of the earth and that is all there is to it—in lumbering and in fisheries the aim should be not to exhaust the resources of the State, but while utilizing them to the fullest extent, yet so to preserve them that those who come after you shall share in the benefits.

We have passed the age in this country when we could afford to tolerate the man whose aim was to skin the country and get out. That is not what you want. What we want is a population of the home makers, a population intending to stay on the land and intending that their children and children's children shall occupy the land and shall receive it, not impoverished, but enriched.

There are few problems which so especially concern Washington, Oregon and California as the problem of forestry. Nothing has been of better augury for the welfare and prosperity of these great States as well as for the other forest States than the way in which those actively engaged in the lumbering business have come of recent years to work hand in hand with those who have made forestry a study in the effort to preserve the forests. The whole question is a business, an economic question; an economic question for the nation, a business question for the individual. East of your great mountain chains the question of water supply becomes vital and becomes inseparable from that of forestry. Here that question does not enter in, but the lumbering interest is the fourth great business interest in point of importance in the United States. There is engaged in it a capital of over six hundred millions of dollars. Such an industry so vitally connected with many others in the country cannot with wisdom be neglected—the interests depending upon it are too vast.

I do not have to say here in Washington that fire is a great enemy of the forests. Here in Washington it is probable that fire has destroyed more than the ax during the decade in which the ax has been at work. Our aim should be to get the fullest from the forest today, and yet to get that benefit in ways which will keep the forests for our children in the generations to come, so that, for instance, the country adjoining Puget Sound shall have the lumbering industry as a permanent industry.

Recently the trade journals of that industry have been dwelling upon the fact that its very existence is actually at stake, and nowhere in the whole country can the question of forestry be handled better than in this region, because nowhere else is it so easy to produce a second crop. You are fortunate in having such climate conditions, such conditions of soil, that here more than anywhere else the forest renews itself quickly, so as in a comparatively short number of years to be again a great mercantile and industrial asset. The preservation of our forests de pends chiefly upon the wisdom with which the practical lumberman, the expert in dealing with the lumber industry, works with the men who have studied the scientific side of forestry; co-operation between them is the best and surest way of saving our forests.

But, after all has been said, after we have gotten the best laws and the best administration of the laws, it remains true that the essential factor in the success of any community is the average citizenship of that community, just as the essential factor in the success of any individual must be, now and in the future, as it ever has been in the past, the sum of the qualities which go to make up the character of that individual. Nothing will take the place of that. You know how that was in the Civil War, all of you here who have been soldiers. There are some men whom you can drill all you wish, and give them the best weapons, the best training, the best uniforms, and after you have done it all the men will be worthless, because if they have not the right stuff in them you cannot get it out.

It is just so in citizenship. There are any number of people whom no law and no administration of the law can possibly make prosperous because they have not got it in them to be prosperous. All of us at times need help, and there is just one way in which you can help another man, and that is to help him to help himself. It is because our people here have proceeded upon that assumption that we have built up cities like this and states like this.

In closing, just one word more, and again I appeal for example to the men of the Civil War, to the men who have worn Uncle Sam's uniform as regulars and as volunteers, and who, therefore, have made their fellow citizens their debtors. I ask that in civil life we judge men exactly on the principles by which you judged your comrades in the great war, by which any man when he gets down into the stress of things has got to judge the man on his right or his left hand; in that war, in time of trial, when the marching was hard, when the battle was sore, what you cared for about the man on your right hand or your left was not in the least whether he was wealthy or not, what creed he worshiped his Maker by, whether he came from one State or another, what his birthplace was, whether he was a banker or a bricklayer, lawyer, mechanic, or farmer. What you wanted to know was whether he would "stay put". That was enough.

So it is in civil life. The surest way to bring disaster upon this people is to separate along the lines of caste, creed or locality, and the worst enemy of this people is the man who seeks to excite hatred of section, creed against creed, or class against class. The man who does that is no true American, and is an enemy of the principles upon which this government was founded. The republics of antiquity and of the middle ages all failed and almost invariably because a bitter factional war began among them and they either became oligarchies, slip ping into the hands of the powerful or wealthy, or else slipping into the hands of the mob pledged to destroy the powerful and the wealthy.

This government cannot and shall not become a government either of a plutocracy or of a mob. It can continue to exist only if governed on the principles for which you fought from '61 to '65—of liberty and equal rights under and through and by the law for all worthy men and upright citizens. The spirit of class hatred is as base if it takes one shape as if it takes the other. It is as base if it takes the form of an arrogant over-riding of the rights of those not so well off as if it takes the form of an envious or mean hatred and rancor toward those better off. Any man who indulges in either feeling shows himself no true American.

And, oh, my fellow countrymen, I am too proud of you and I believe in you too much to be willing to see any man worthy to be called an American dignify another man by envying him, for that is what envy does. Envy is always a confession of inferiority except for the qualities which we rightly expect in any man. Envy a man because he has a touch of Washington in him, because he has a touch of Abraham Lincoln, envy a man because he was in the Civil War, and I am with you; but do not envy him for the non-essentials, do not wrong yourselves by assuming the attitude which amounts to a confession of inferiority. Walk with your heads erect, too conscious of your own worth to belittle that worth by paying the tribute of envy, for unworthy reasons, to others.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Everett, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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