Remarks in Ogden, Utah

May 29, 1903

Mr. Mayor, Senator Smoot, and you, my fellow citizens, men and women of Ogden, of Utah:

It is a great pleasure to come before you this afternoon, and if I needed, which I do not, a vindication of what was done in irrigation, I would appeal to the experience of the people who have made so marvelous a success of irrigation in this beautiful valley.

What you have succeeded in doing with beet-sugar alone is sufficient to show the wisdom of trying to develop in every way the irrigated agriculture of the country; and I was more pleased than I can say to have been able to render any aid whatsoever in putting upon the national statute books a law which I consider in beneficence second to none connected with our internal development since the Homestead law was passed.

I am delighted that the National Irrigation Congress is to be held here next fall, and I congratulate the State of Utah upon the fact that its Legislature was the first ever to pass an appropriation for such a congress. There can be nothing of greater importance to the welfare and growth of our country during the half-century that is opening than this question of irrigation. It is of vital consequence to the growth of all of the States of the Rocky Mountains, and immediately to either side; and anything that is of such consequence to one portion of our country is necessarily of consequence to all. I cannot with too much emphasis say that every wise and patriotic man will favor any scheme for the betterment of a part of the country, whether it is in his own section or not, because whatever helps a part of us in the long run helps all.

Fundamentally, we go up or go down together. Prosperity does not stop at State lines, and neither does adversity. When prosperity comes while it may come unequally, yet it comes somewhat to all; and when adversity comes, while some will suffer more than others, yet all must suffer somewhat. The greatest lesson which the American body politic need take to heart, at the beginning of the twentieth century, is that it is out of the question permanently for our people to progress save on lines that tell for the progression of all; that you cannot raise permanently one section by depressing another, one class by depressing another; and the man is recreant to the principles of our Government no less than to the welfare of our people who seeks to arouse any feeling among Americans against their fellow-Americans, whether he makes his appeal in the fancied interest of a section or in the fancied interest of a class. We can go up—as we shall go up—only by each of us keeping in mind not merely his own rights, but his duties to his neighbors; meaning by neighbor every man living within the limits of this broad land. The safe motto on which to act is the motto not of "some men down," but of "all men"; and therefore I feel that it was not merely my privilege, but my duty, to ask the National Government—the Government representing the people of the entire nation—to do all in its power for the furtherance of the interest of those States whose success is largely dependent upon the application of the principles of irrigation.

And now you know the proverb "The Lord helps those who help themselves?" If you throw all the duty of helping you on the Lord he will throw it back on you. Now, it is the same way with your fellow men. Providence is not going to do everything for you, and the National Government cannot. All that the National Government can do is to try to give you a fair show to help you to the chance of doing your work under favorable conditions, and then the work has got to be done by you yourselves.

And as one step toward doing that work I hope most earnestly that you and all the other States in interest will push forward and will in every way endeavor to make the meeting of the irrigation congress here in Ogden a thorough success. And I say that not merely in the interest of Ogden, not merely in the interest of States which are to be benefited by irrigation, but in the interest of the Union I want to see that congress a success; I want to see the work of irrigation made the greatest possible success.

Here in the audience today at Ogden I am greeted by the one class of our citizens whom I feel I have the concurrence of all of us in putting foremost, in giving for all time the right of the line—the men of the Grand Army of the Republic—and also of greeting the younger men, my own comrades, who ashore, and I am glad to say here afloat, both ashore and afloat, did their duty in the war of 1898; and I want to say just a word to you about them.

When I greet the men and women of the generation that fought the Civil War—for, mind you, the woman who stayed at home and sent husband or lover, father or brother to the war; that sent the bread winner off and tried to do her best without his aid at home, knowing that he might never come back, she deserves just as much recognition as the man who went. In fact, when I speak of good citizenship, I am just as apt to think of a woman as a man; and in the partnership between man and woman I am by no means sure that it is the man that generally has the best of it; and one thing I know, that no other citizen in the country has the equal claim upon us as the woman who has brought us up to be honorable men and women, her children, who has done her duty in the home to husband and to children.

Now, you of the Civil War, and you, my comrades of the lesser war—for, gentlemen, in our case it wasn't so much of a job, but we did it, I want to take just one lesson from what you did. At Salt Lake I spoke of the lessons to be drawn in our own domestic and civic life from the conduct of the men who fought in the great Civil War. We have many problems to face within our boundaries here as a nation; many new problems have arisen and will arise as incidents in the tremendous growth of our complex industrial civilization. We need to advance new methods of meeting those problems, but the spirit with which we must approach them, if we are to succeed, is the spirit shown by the men who in 1861 answered when Abraham Lincoln called—a spirit of broad brotherhood; a spirit of manliness which will not endure wrong and will not inflict it. I don't want to see you endure wrong and I don't want to see you inflict it.

And above and in addition a spirit of cool-headed sanity. If there is one quality which we must try to eradicate from our dealings with any of the social and industrial problems which arise from time to time it is the quality of hysterics—hysteria. Banish brutality, envy, greed, hatred—banish them all; and banish with them all forms of emotional hysteria. We need cool-headed, sane common sense in dealing with the problems that confront the nation, just as we need it in dealing each with the problems that confront him or her in his or her own household.

So that we need to draw a lesson from the conduct of the men of the Civil War in conducting our affairs of peace. We need also to draw a moral from their conduct as to how to handle ourselves in the great work of the world, which, whether we wish it or not, we must undertake. Mind you, a nation like ours can't play a small part. A small people, a weak people, a people with limited territory of little wealth and few inhabitants, might play a small part with dignity and propriety—a big nation like ours can't. We must play a big part. We can play it badly or play it well—but play it we have got to, and as we have to, I know too well the spirit of my countrymen to hesitate as to the way in which it shall be played.

Now, in the Civil War, the men who did the business did not boast of more than they could make good. They did not say what they could not do. The people who called "On to Richmond," and demanded that within three weeks they should go to Richmond, were not the people with the rifles at the front; they were the people behind. Yes, and the men in front knew they had quite a job on their hands; they knew that it would take some time, and were bent on seeing it through, and the same people who would at one moment shriek for an immediate victory, a triumph at Richmond, two weeks afterward, when perhaps that victory had not occurred, would say the war was a failure. After it had ended they were in error. It did not end for three years and a half afterward, and then it ended the other way.

Now, this interlude having passed, now in dealing with foreign affairs, I want our people to copy the attitude of the men who did not brag but did fight in the Civil War. No good comes of speaking insultingly of other nations. On the contrary, it is the mark of a weak man to bluster always. I used to live in the cow country myself, and we had a proverb there, which ran: "Don't draw unless you mean to shoot." Now, that is pretty good sense for a nation as well as for an individual. Don't make claims that we are not prepared to back up; don't talk loosely or loudly as to what we will do to other nations in a way that will cause them to feel that we are acting in an insulting and aggressive way. Treat them with courtesy—with absolute courtesy—and that having been done, make up our minds what the interests and the honor of America require stake it, and make it good when staked.

I believe in the Monroe Doctrine with all my heart and soul, and I intend to see that it is made good. I believe that our interests in the Pacific are such that we need always to be ready to protect them in the Atlantic; you can keep this nation in the position she has attained only by going on with the building up of the United States navy. When I appeal for the navy I appeal for something which should meet a response in every American heart, for the navy is as much the concern of the man who lives upon the Plains or in the Mississippi Valley as of the man who lives on the coast of either ocean, because a victory for the navy is a victory for each and all of us; a defeat could cause each of us to hang his head. No man, therefore, stands as more typically representative of the interests of all our people than the man whose duty it is to see to the building up and the rendering and keeping efficient of the navy of the United States as far as Congress gives him that power, and no man of recent years who has held the position of Secretary of the Navy has done more to render it efficient than the man I am about to introduce to you—Secretary of the Navy Moody—who will now speak to you.

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

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