Remarks in Glenn's Ferry, Idaho

May 28, 1903

My fellow citizens:

Let me thank you most cordially for your greeting. I am glad to see all of you, but I do not know but what I am most pleased to see the children. It has been a great pleasure to come into Idaho. I know your State of old, although I have never been out to Boise, but in the old days I was out in the mountains in the eastern part of your State.

One thing that has particularly pleased me in making this trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific, right across the continent, has been the fact of the fundamental unity of our people. A good American is a good American in whatever part of this country you find him.

That is the important lesson to learn. I have been here in the west for six weeks and I think I was a pretty good American when I came, but I am going away a better American.

I have been struck coming through this State—a State with its mines and timber in the north, and here the grazing country—with the wonderful results achieved wherever water has been put upon the soil.

I do not believe that there is any State in this country which will benefit more through the workings of the irrigation act than this State of Idaho; and nothing has pleased me more than to have had my part in getting the national government to aid in the work. Much can be done by the aid of the government, by the aid of the State; but, after all, the fundamental thing in bringing success to any community is the quality of the average man, the average woman, in that community. I believe in your future; I believe in the future of the nation of which you and I are a part, because I believe that we have just that average quality of citizenship in our men and women.

No law that the wit of man has even devised can make or ever will make a fool wise, or a coward brave, or a weakling strong. All that the law can do is to try to secure a fair deal, to try to give each man a chance to show the stuff that is in him; and if the stuff is not in him you cannot get it out of him because it is not there.

It is a good thing to have a sound body; it is a better thing to have a sound mind. Best of all it is to have what counts for more than body and more than mind, character—character, into which a good many different elements enter, but these especially. In the first place, the element of honesty, of decency, using it in its widest bearing, the element that makes a man a good husband, a good father, a good neighbor, a good man to work alongside of or to deal with; and then in addition to that we need courage, hardihood, the qualities that every railroad man—every man on the engine or firing—has got to show, the qualities that we speak of when we say of a man that he is not only a good man, but a man; and, finally, in addition to courage and honesty, we need the saving grace of common sense, for without that a man will make but scant headway in the world. I am very glad to have had the chance of seeing you.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Glenn's Ferry, Idaho Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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