Remarks at Leland Stanford Jr. University in Palo Alto, California
President Jordan, and You, My Fellow-Citizens, and Especially You, My Fellow-College Men and Women:
I thank you for your greeting, and I know you will not grudge my saying, first of all, a special word of thanks to the men of the Grand Army. It is a fine thing to have before a body of students men who by their practice have rendered it unnecessary that they should preach [applause]; for what we have to teach by precept, you, the men of '61 to '65, have taught by deed, by action. I am glad, I am proud as an American college man myself to have seen the tablet outside within the court which shows that this young university sent eighty-five of her sons to war when the country called for them. [Applause] I came from a college which boasts as its proudest building that which is to stand to the memory of Harvard's sons who responded to the call of Lincoln when the hour of the nation's danger was at hand. It will be a bad day for this country and a worse day for all educative institutions in this country if ever such a call is made, and the men of college training do not feel it peculiarly incumbent upon them to respond. [Applause]
The last week I have thoroughly enjoyed, and my enjoyment would have been unmarred by a flaw if I had not been obliged to make speeches. I have been traveling through California. It is the first time I have ever come to the Pacific Coast and my visit to the wonderful and beautiful State has been to me one of absorbing interest. I cannot say how I have appreciated being here; the chance to see the natural products, the scenery, the landscape, all that man has done with the soil, how he has taken advantage of the climate, what he has dune materially and socially, what he has done in building upon the material wellbeing which he has secured from soil and climate the higher life of the intellect, the spirit and the soul. Now I have come to this great institution of learning and I wonder whether you yourselves fully appreciate the mere physical beauty of your surroundings. I was not prepared in the !east (and I thought I was prepared for it) for the beauty of your surroundings. You have had these plans of your university made by a great architect, native to our own American soil, who himself had the sense to adapt—not to copy in servile fashion—but to adapt the old Californian architecture to the new university uses, and so we have here a great institution of learning absolutely unique, even in its outward aspect, situated in this beautiful valley with the hills in the background, under this sky, with these buildings, and if this university does not turn out the right kind of citizenship and the right kind of scholarship, I shall be more than disappointed. [Applause]
I want to say one word personally. President Jordan has been kind enough to allude to me as an old friend. Mr. Jordan is too modest to say that he has long been not only a friend, but a man to whom I have turned for advice and help, before and since I became President. [Applause] I am glad to have the chance of acknowledging my obligations to him, and I am also glad that when I ask you to strive toward productive scholarship, toward productive citizenship, I can use the president of the university as an example. Of course, in any of our American institutions of learning, even more important than the production of scholarship, is the production of citizenship. That is the most important thing that any institution of learning can produce. There is a great proportion, a great number of students who cannot and should not try, in after life, to lead a career of scholarship, but no university can take high rank if it does not aim at the production of, and succeed in producing, a certain number of deep and thorough scholars. Not scholars whose scholarship is of the barren kind, but men of productive scholarship, men who do good work, I trust great work, in the fields of literature, of art, of science, in all their manifold activities. Here in California this nation, composite in its race stocks, speaking an Old World tongue, and with an inherited Old World culture, has acquired an absolutely new domain. I do not mean new only in the sense of additional territory like that already possessed, I mean new in the sense of new surroundings, to use the scientific phrase, of a new environment. Being new, I think we have a right to look for a substantial achievement on the part of your people along new lines. I do not mean the self- conscious striving after newness, which is only too apt to breed eccentricity, but I mean that those among you whose bent is toward scholarship as a career, if those will keep in mind the fact that such scholarship should be productive, and should therefore aim at giving to the world some addition to the world's stock of what is useful or beautiful, and if you work simply and naturally, taking advantage of your surroundings as you find them, then in my belief a new mark will be made in the history of the intellectual achievement by our people, by our race. You of this institution are blessed in its extraordinary physical beauty and appropriateness of architecture and surroundings, with its suggestion of what I might call the Americanized Greek. Such is your institution, situated on the shores of this great ocean, built by a race which has come steadily westward, which has come to where the Occident looks west to the Orient, a race whose members here, fresh, vigorous, with the boundless possibilities of the future brought to their very doors in a sense that cannot be possible for the members of the race situated farther east—surely there will be some great outcome in the way not merely of physical, but of moral and intellectual work worth doing. I should think but ill of you if you developed along the lines of the prig, and if what I have read about California is true, if the present proper desire for athletic sports continues to develop, you are saved from that danger. [Applause] I do not want you to turn out prigs; I do not want you to turn out the self-conscious. I believe, with all my heart, in play. I want you to play hard without encroaching on your work. I do, nevertheless, think you ought to have at least the consciousness of the serious side of what all this means, and of the necessity of effort, thrust upon you, so that you may justify by your deeds in the future your training and the extraordinary advantages under which that training has been obtained.
America, the Republic of the United States, is of course in a peculiar sense typical of the present age. We represent the fullest development of the democratic spirit joined to the extraordinary and highly complex industrial growth of the last half century. It behooves us to justify by our acts the claims made for that political and economic progress. We will never justify the existence of the republic by merely talking about what the republic has done each Fourth of July. If our homage is lip loyalty merely the great deeds of those who went before us, the great deeds of the times of Washington and of the times of Lincoln, the great deeds of the men who won the Revolution and founded the nation, and of the men who preserved it, who made it a Union and a free republic—these great deeds will simply arise to shame us. We can honor our fathers and our fathers' fathers only by ourselves striving to rise level to their standard. There are plenty of tendencies for evil in what we see round about us. Thank heaven, there are an even greater number of tendencies for good, and one of the things, Mr. Jordan, which it seems to me gives this nation cause for hope is the national standard of ambition which makes it possible to recognize with admiration and regard such work as the founding of a university of this character. It speaks well for our nation that men and women should desire during their lives to devote the fortunes which they were able to acquire or to inherit because of our system of government, because of our social system, to objects so entirely worthy and so entirely admirable as the foundation of a great seat of learning such as this. [Applause]
All that we outsiders can do is to pay our tribute of respect to the dead and to the living who have done such good, and at least to make it evident that we appreciate to the full what has been done.
I have spoken of scholarship; I want to go back to the question of citizenship, the question affecting not merely the scholars among you, not merely those who are hereafter to lead lives devoted to science, to art, to productivity in literature. And just let me say one word—when you take up science, art and literature, remember that one first-class bit of work is better than one thousand fairly good bits of work [applause]; that as the years roll on the man or the woman who has been able to make a masterpiece with the pen, the brush, the pencil, in any way, that that man, that woman, has rendered a service to the country such as not all his or her compeers who merely do fairly good second-rate work can ever accomplish. But only a limited number of you, only a limited number of us, can ever become scholars or work successfully along the lines I have spoken of, but we can all be good citizens. We can all lead a life of action, a life of endeavor, a life that is to be judged primarily by the effort, somewhat by the result, along the lines of helping the growth of what is right and decent and generous and lofty in our several communities, in the State, in the nation.
And you, men and women, who have had the advantages of a college training are not to be excused if you fail to do not as well as, but if you fail to do more than the average man outside who has not had your advantages. [Applause] Every now and then I meet (at least I meet him in the East, and I dare say he is to be found here) the man who, having gone through college, feels that somehow that confers upon him a special distinction which relieves him from the necessity of showing himself as good as his fellows. [Applause] I see you recognize the type. That man is not only a curse to the community, and incidentally to himself, but he is a curse to the cause of academic education, the college and university training, because by his existence he serves as an excuse for those who would like to denounce such education. Your education, your training, will not confer on you one privilege in the way of excusing you from effort or from work. All it can do, and what it should do, is to make you a little better fitted for such effort, for such work; and I do not care whether that is in business, politics, in no matter what branch of endeavor, all it can do is by the training you have received, by the advantages you have received, to fit you to do a little better than the average man that you meet. It is incumbent upon you to show that the training has had that effect. It ought to enable you to do a little better for yourselves, and if you have in you souls capable of a thrill of generous emotion, souls capable of understanding what you owe to your training, to your alma mater, to the past and the present that have given you all that you have—if you have such souls, it ought to make you doubly bent upon disinterest td work for the State and the nation. [Applause] Such work can be done along many different lines.
I want today, here in California, to make a special appeal to all of you, and to California as a whole, for work along a certain line—the line of preserving your great natural advantages alike from the standpoint of use and from the standpoint of beauty. If the students of this institution have not by the mere fact of their surroundings learned to appreciate beauty, then the fault is in you and not in the surroundings. Here in California you have some of the great wonders of the world. You have a singularly beautiful landscape, singularly beautiful and singularly majestic scenery, and it should certainly be your aim to try to preserve for those who are to come after you that beauty; to try to keep unmarred that majesty. Closely entwined with keeping unmarred the beauty of your scenery, of your great natural attractions, is the question of making use of, not for the moment merely, but for future time, of your great natural products. Yesterday I saw for the first time a grove of your great trees, a grove which it has taken the ages several thousands of years to build up; and I feel most emphatically that we should not turn a tree which was old when the first Egyptian conqueror penetrated to the valley of the Euphrates, which it has taken so many thousands of years to build up, and which can be put to better use, into shingles. [Applause] That, you may say, is not looking at the matter from the practical standpoint. There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty, than the preservation of anything that appeals to the higher emotions in mankind. But, furthermore, I appeal to you from the standpoint of use. A few big trees, of unusual size and beauty, should be preserved for their own sake; but the forests as a whole should be used for business purposes, only they should be used in a way that will preserve them as permanent sources of national wealth. In many parts of California the whole future welfare of the State depends upon the way in which you are able to use your water supply; and the preservation of the forests and the preservation of the use of the water are inseparably connected. I believe we are past the stage of national existence when we could look on complacently at the individual who skinned the land and was perfectly content for the sake of three years' profit for himself to leave a desert for the children of those who were to inherit the soil. I think we have passed that stage. We should handle, and I think we now do handle, all problems such as those of forestry and of the preservation and use of our waters from the standpoint of the permanent interests of the homemaker in any region—the man who comes in not to take what he can out of the soil and leave, having exploited the country, but who comes to dwell therein, to bring up his children, and to leave them the heritage in the country not merely unimpaired, but if possible even improved. That is the sensible view of civic obligation, and the policy of the State and of the nation should be shaped in that direction. It should be shaped in the interest of the home-maker, the actual resident, the man who is not only to be benefited himself, but whose children and children's children are to be benefited by what he has done. California has for years, I am happy to say, taken a more sensible, a more intelligent interest in forest preservation than any other State. It early appointed a forest commission, later on some of the functions of that commission were replaced by the Sierra Club, a club which has done much on the Pacific Coast to perpetuate the spirit of the explorer and the pioneer. Then I am happy to say a great business interest showed an intelligent and farsighted spirit which is of happy augury, for the Redwood Manufacturers of San Francisco were first among lumbermen's associations to give assistance to the cause of practical forestry. The study of the redwood which the action of this association made possible was the pioneer study in the co-operative work which is now being carried out between lumbermen all over the United States and the Federal Bureau of Forestry. All of this kind of work is peculiarly the kind of work in which we have a right to expect not merely hearty co-operation from, but leadership in college men trained in the universities of this Pacific Coast State [applause]; for the forests of this State stand alone in the world. There are none others like them anywhere. There are no other trees anywhere like the giant Sequoias; nowhere else is there a more beautiful forest than that which clothes the western slope of the Sierra. Very early your forests attracted lumbermen from other States, and by the course of timber land investments some of the best of the big tree groves were threatened with destruction. I am sorry to say destruction came upon some of them, but I am happy to say that the women of California rose to the emergency through the California Club, and later the Sempervirens Club took vigorous action, but the Calaveras grove is not yet safe, and there should be no rest until that safety is secured, by the action of private individuals, by the action of the State, by the action of the nation. The interest of California in forest protection was shown even more effectively by the purchase of the Big Basin Redwood Park, a superb forest property the possession of which should be a source of just pride to all citizens jealous of California's good name, I appeal to you, as I say, to protect these mighty trees, these wonderful monuments of beauty. I appeal to you to protect them for the sake of their beauty, but I also make the appeal just as strongly on economic grounds; as I am well aware that in dealing with such questions a farsighted economic policy must be that to which alone in the long run one can safely appeal. The interests of California in forests depend directly of course upon the handling of her wood and water supplies and the supply of material from the lumber woods and the production of agricultural products on irrigated farms. The great valleys which stretch through the State between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges must owe their future development as they owe their present prosperity to irrigation. Whatever tends to destroy the water supply of the Sacramento, the San Gabriel, and the other valleys strikes vitally at the welfare of California. The welfare of California depends in no small measure upon the preservation of water for the purposes of irrigation in those beautiful and fertile valleys which cannot grow crops by rainfall alone. The forest cover upon the drainage basins of streams used for irrigation purposes is of prime importance to the interests of the entire State. Now keep in mind that the whole object of forest protection is as I have said again and again the making and maintaining of prosperous homes. I am not advocating forest protection from the aesthetic standpoint only. I do advocate the keeping of big trees, the great monarchs of the woods, for the sake of their beauty, but I advocate the preservation and wise use of the forests because I feel it essential to the interests of the actual settlers. I am asking that the forests be used wisely for the sake of the successors of the pioneers, for the sake of the settlers who dwell on the land and by doing so extend the borders of our civilization. I ask it for the sake of the man who makes his farm in the woods, or lower down along the side of the streams which have their rise in the mountains. Every phase of the land policy of the United States is, as it by right ought to be, directed to the upbuilding of the home maker. The one sure test of all public land legislation should be; does it help to make and to keep prosperous homes? If it does, the legislation is good. If it does not, the legislation is bad. Any legislation which has a tendency to give land in large tracts to people who will lease it out to tenants is undesirable. We do not want to ever let our land policy be shaped so as to create a big class of proprietors who rent to others. We want to make the smaller man who, under such conditions would rent—we want to make them actual proprietors. We must shape our policy so that these men themselves shall be the land owners, the makers of homes, the keepers of homes.
Certain of our land laws, however beneficent their purposes, have been twisted into an improper use, so that there have grown up abuses under them by which they tend to create a class of men who, under one color and another, obtain large tracts of soil for speculative purposes, or to rent out to others; and there should be now a thorough scrutiny of our land laws with the object of so amending them as to do away with the possibility of such abuses. If it was not for the national irrigation act we would be about past the time when Uncle Sam could give every man a farm. Comparatively little of our land is left which is adapted to farming without irrigation. The home maker on the public land must hereafter, in the great majority of cases, have water for irrigation, or the making of his home will fail. Let us keep that fact before our mind. Do not misunderstand me when I have spoken of the defects of our land laws. Our land laws have served a noble purpose in the past and have become the models for other governments. The homestead law has been a notable instrument for good. To establish a family permanently upon a quarter section of land, or of course upon a less quantity if it is irrigated land, is the best use to which it can be put. The first need of any nation is intelligent and honest citizens. Such can come only from honest and intelligent homes, and to get the good citizenship we must get the good homes. It is absolutely necessary that the remainder of our public land should be reserved for the home maker, and it is necessary in my judgment that there should be a revision of the land laws and a cutting out of such provisions from them as in actual practice under present conditions tend to make possible the acquisition of large tracts for speculative purposes or for the purpose of leasing to others.
I have said that good laws alone will not secure good administration. Citizenship is the prime test in the welfare of the nation; but we need good laws; and above all we need good land laws throughout the West. We want to see the free farmer own his own home. The best of the public lands are already in private hands, and yet the rate of their disposal is steadily increasing. More than six million acres were patented during the first three months of the present year. It is time for us to see that our remaining public lands are saved for the home maker to the utmost limit of his possible use. I say this to you of this university because we have a right to expect that the best trained, the best educated men on the Pacific Slope, the Rocky Mountains and great plains States will take the lead in the preservation and right use of the forests, in securing the right use of the waters, and of seeing to it that our land policy is not twisted from its original purpose, but is perpetuated by amendment, by change when such change is necessary in the line of that purpose, the purpose being to turn the public domain into farms each to be the property of the man who actually tills it and makes his home on it. [Applause]
Infinite are the possibilities for usefulness that lie before such a body as that I am addressing. Work of course you will have to work. I should be sorry for you if you did not have to work. [Applause] Of course you will have to work, and I envy you the fact that before you, before the graduates of this university lies the chance of lives to be spent in hard labor for great and glorious and useful causes, hard labor for the uplifting of your States, of the Union, of all mankind. [Cheers and applause]
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at Leland Stanford Jr. University in Palo Alto, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/298007