Remarks in Grand Island, Nebraska
Mr. Mayor, and you, men and women of Nebraska, my fellow Americans, my fellow citizens:
It is indeed a pleasure to come into your great and beautiful state. Yesterday afternoon, for my good fortune, I had a ride, and as I went through your country I was struck not merely with its natural fertility, but with the way in which that fertility has been enhanced and varied by your own efforts.
In the first place let me say how glad I am to see so much alfalfa as well as corn. If you have got two staples you do not have as much misery when one staple happens to fail. In the next place I was more struck than I can say by the amount of timber I saw, the groves and rows of trees. I knew, of course, that over, 000 acres of forest land had been planted in Nebraska, but to know a thing is one thing and to see it is another. And it was a matter of good augury for all the state to see as I did at Mr. Stalley's place, where a saw mill has been started to saw logs from timber planted and grown by our own people. Nebraska was originally a well-nigh treeless state. The great bulk of the trees here have been planted by its own people. I am glad to say that now, through the wisdom of your senators and representatives in helping to establish forest reserves in the sand hills, the national government will be able to co-operate with your own spirit of private enterprise. What Nebraska has done in tree planting has extended beyond its own limits. The founder of Arbor Day was that upright and able public servant, the late ex-Secretary Sterling Morton. Arbor Day has extended far beyond the limits of the state and all over the Union. Now millions of children as well as millions of grown people learn practically on Arbor Day the wisdom of trying to plant trees where they do not exist, and trying to preserve them for the public use where they do exist.
This morning I turned the sod in preparation for the building of the new library; and I passed between great rows of school children on my way here, and I see some children here and there in the crowd. Now I am proud, as an American, of what Nebraska has done with its products of the field and range; I am proud of your material development. But after all what really counts in the end in any state is the character of the men and women whom the state produces. That is the essential thing. The school, the library, the church, the hundred instruments for moral and intellectual betterment, those are what count more than aught else in developing the type of citizenship in which, as Americans, we have a right to feel satisfaction. I am glad to see the children. I believe in your stock and I want to see it kept up.
In closing let me thank you all for your greeting. The rest of you will not grudge my thanking especially the men of the Grand Army, who in the times that tried men's souls proved their worth by their endeavor; but beyond that I wish to thank you all, and to congratulate you upon what I see about me. The material prosperity which we now all so abundantly enjoy, that prosperity which must stand at the base of our national welfare, and that over and above that you have reared on that indispensable foundation what is absolutely necessary if the building is to be worthy of the architect—the super structure of intellect and moral wellbeing and righteousness; the super structure of which the cornerstones are the library, the school, the church. I believe in the men and women of Nebraska, of the west, because I feel that you are in a sense typical Americans. Your fore fathers came into this country and as pioneers carved the prairie into fertile farms. You have had in the past to face hardships and disaster. The work of taming the new country is a rough one. You not only have to tame it, but you have to find out what can be done with it, and the penalty of trying to do the wrong thing is sometimes heavy. You have succeeded. You have put this state on a permanent plane of prosperity. That prosperity has been helped by wise laws and the administration of the laws; but after all has been said and done, while something can be done by law, and while we must demand honest and upright administration of the law, yet in the last resort each man must rely as the chief factor in working out his own salvation upon the sum of the qualities that go to make his individual character, upon his honesty, his courage and his common sense.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Grand Island, Nebraska Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343420