Remarks in Newcastle, Wyoming

April 25, 1903

My fellow citizens:

I want to talk to you about the qualities that tell for good citizen ship. They are many; but they come down chiefly into three categories. In the first place honesty and decency—I use the words in their widest sense—not merely the honesty that refrains from actual theft, but the aggressive honesty that will see no wrong without trying to right it. Next to honesty you must have courage, the virtue that teaches you positively and aggressively to do right. These you must have; but you must have more in addition. You may be honest and you may be brave, but if you are a natural-born fool, may the Lord be with you. We need courage, and we need honesty, and finally we need the saving grace of common sense. We shall get good results from good citizenship exactly in proportion as the ordinary citizen is developed along the three lines that I have indicated, but nothing on earth can take the place of those qualities in the average man.

There are other countries with institutions like those of our great republic, which, nevertheless, have failed to come up to the standard we have set, because they did not have the man back of the law. Just as on the battlefield it is the man behind the gun who counts most, so in civil life it is the average citizen back of the law that counts most. We must have clean and decent government; we must have good laws; we must have decent officials to make and to execute the laws. If we do not it is your own fault. In closing let me just repeat one thing: There is no royal road to prosperity any more than there is any royal road to good government. Good government does not come by any special genius or brilliancy; good government comes from the average man showing the qualities which we recognize as making a good friend and good neighbor. Prosperity comes not from any juggling with the laws, not by any effort to show smartness unaccompanied by moral sense; it comes by the constant exercise on the part of the individual of those qualities which each of us recognizes as making a desirable citizen of our neighbor in private life.

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

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