Remarks on Reviewing the Second Regiment of the National Guard of New Jersey in Sea Girt, New Jersey
Governor Murphy, and you, the officers and enlisted men of the National Guard of New Jersey, and you, my fellow citizens, men and women who have come here to see how your friends and kinsmen handle themselves in the National Guard:
I am glad to be with you today. I take, as every American must take, a peculiar interest in the National Guard. I want, at the out set, most sincerely to compliment and congratulate the State of New Jersey upon having men as workmanlike in the National Guard as you seem to be. I want to congratulate you, on the other hand, be cause your state, New Jersey, has made such admirable provision for you here in the parade ground and at the butts in the target practice. I was particularly glad to see you looking as if you meant business, as if you were out for work as well as for play, as if you meant to be learning what is temporarily your business. A man is of use as a National Guardsman for just exactly the same reasons as he is of use as a citizen, and that is if he sets to work with his whole heart to do his duty for the time being, to make himself thoroughly proficient in the line of the business he has taken up.
A National Guardsman who joins only to have a good time pretty generally does not have a good time, and certainly makes a poor hand at being a guardsman. You have got to try at once to come up to the highest standard that you can set before yourselves of soldierly proficiency. I like the way you have borne yourselves. I like the way you marched by in review, and I do not think it necessary to tell you what you surely will be told as long as you have a West Pointer, like General Gilmore, over you—a man who comes of a generation of fighters for the United States flag, descended from an illustrious general of the Civil War, and I am happy to say with a son to follow in the father's footsteps at West Point. I am sure I do not have to tell you when you have such a commander of this brigade that you will show your worth by fitting yourselves now in time of peace, so that, if the need should come, you will be able to show that you were not play soldiers only, but that you could do your work. That is what counts—having learned your duties so as to apply them whenever the necessity shall arise not only in handling yourselves well on the parade ground and in the bar racks, but also in handling yourselves well in the march and in the tar get practice at the butts.
I earnestly hope and believe you never will get into battle, but if you do, it is going to be mighty important to hit the other fellow; and you are going to be able to do it largely in consequence of the way you have put in your time, knowing your rifle until it is just part of yourself, until you can handle it, take care of it, and use it as it has been the pride of the American Army in the past, that our troops always have used their rifles—efficiently. We have prided ourselves upon having an army of marksmen. Our army has given us a just pride in it, because its constant and zealous effort has been to take care of itself in the field and in all that pertains to the duties of a soldier. I think, gentlemen, that much help can be given to the National Guard of the States by the action of the United States Government. I want to see the National Guard with the best and most modern weapons. I want to see the infantry with the Krag-Jorgensen, and I want to see the infantry with three-point-two guns of the regular army. I am happy to say that a bill has been passed through the lower House which will enable the National Government materially to aid the National Guard of the United States, in the different States. At the next session, I firmly believe, we will get it through the United States Senate, and then I can guarantee the signature of the President
I think that our people have not always appreciated the debt that they are under to the National Guard. A man who goes into the National Guard and does his duty thoroughly puts the whole country under an obligation to him. Always in our history, it has been the case, as it will always be in the future, that if war should arise it is to be met mainly by the citizen soldier—the volunteer soldier. We have in the regular army, officered as it is and filled with the type of enlisted men we have in it, an army which I firmly believe, for its size, is unequaled in the civilized world; and I am sure that I can challenge the most generous support from the National Guard for the regular army of the United States. But the army is, and of necessity must be, so small that in the event of serious trouble in the future the great bulk of our troops must come, as in the past they have come, from the ranks of the people themselves; and in forming these regiments the good done by the presence in them of men who have served faithfully in the National Guard cannot be overestimated. Those men are ready. They know what is expected of them. They train others to do the work that is needed. And another thing, ladies and gentlemen, the same qualities that make a man a success, that make him do his duty decently and honestly in the National Guard regiment; are fundamentally the qualities that he needs to make him a good citizen in private life.
Just as it is in the army, so it is in citizenship. If you are content to go through life waiting for a chance to be a hero, you may wait and the chance may not come. The way to be a good citizen is to do well the ordinary, every-day, humdrum work that comes to citizenship. Don't you think so? I am sure you do. The man who wants to wait until a battle comes is not likely to be the good fighter, and the citizen who waits for heroic times is likely to be a mighty bad one.
I plead with you to do your duty as National Guardsmen and as citizens. Do your duty day by day—the common, ordinary duties which, when done, make in their sum the citizenship of the nation. Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks on Reviewing the Second Regiment of the National Guard of New Jersey in Sea Girt, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343490