Remarks in Seattle, Washington

May 23, 1903

Mr. Mayor, and you, my fellow citizens, men and women of Seattle:

It is a great pleasure indeed for me to come to this Queen City of the Sound on its fiftieth anniversary, and to express my cordial appreciation of your greeting. And you, my fellow citizens, the people of Washington, the people of Seattle, after all I have not got very much to say to you, except to say that you practice what I have preached. I try to practice it myself, too. And I greet you here as the very embodiment of the spirit which makes us proud to be Americans.

How any man can be a citizen of this State, can be a citizen of this city, and realize what has been done during its fifty years of life; how any man with that experience can fail to look forward to the future with eager and confident hope, I cannot imagine. You are good Americans, of course. It is not to your credit that you are—you cannot help being, with your experience.

And you people who live here, confident though you are of your future, I question if you fully realize how great that future really is. There is no other body of water in the world which confers upon the commonwealth possessing it quite the natural advantages that Puget Sound confers upon this State; and there is no other State in the Union, and I include all of them, which has greater natural advantages and a more assured future of greatness than this State of Washington.

Phenomenal though your growth has been, it has barely begun, and your growth in the half century now opening will dwarf absolutely even your growth in the immediate past. More than that, this is a State that looks out as well as in. This is a State whose people will do much in assuring the dominance of the great republic in the waters of the Pacific.

I am speaking in the gateway to Alaska, and all our people, even those from the locality whence I come, are beginning to appreciate a little of Alaska's future. The men of my age whom I am addressing will not be old men before we see Alaska one of the rich, mighty and populous States of the Union. And I thank fortune that the national legislature has begun to wake up to the fact that Alaska has interests of vital importance, not merely to her, but to the entire Union.

Now, if each person there will stand as still as possible it will be more comfortable for him and for the rest. And I want you all to remember, you men, that there are women and children in the crowd. Stand just as quiet as possible; do not sway; just stand as quiet as possible. I will only keep you a few minutes.

Alaska contains a territory which will within this century support as large a population as the combined Scandinavian countries of Europe—those countries from whom has sprung as wonderful a race as ever imprinted its characteristics upon the history of civilization. And exactly as the Scandinavian regions have left their mark we shall see Alaska, with its varied and great possibilities in agriculture and stock raising, with its possibilities of commercial command, with the tremendous development that is going on within it even now—we shall see Alaska produce as hardy and vigorous a people as any portion of North America.

I wish to say a special word of greeting to the men of the Grand Army. Wherever I have been on the Pacific slope—now try to stand as still as possible; I shall only keep you a minute or two more—but a minute or two more—wherever I have been in the Pacific Northwest, I have been greeted by men who wear the button which shows that they fought for the flag in the times that tried men's souls.

And now, here as elsewhere in Washington and Oregon, I have been greeted by my comrades of the Spanish War, who sought to show that they were not wholly unworthy of the men of the great days from '61 to '65. And these men, the men of the Grand Army, have exemplified in their lives exactly the type of virtue, the type of quality, which has meant the upbuilding of this Northwest.

You people here by Puget Sound; you people here by the Pacific, who are sending your sons out now to control Alaska and the sweep of our coast around the northern rim of the great ocean; you people who have conquered this continent, who are turning it into this great and prosperous commonwealth—you have won by displaying in civic life the same qualities that were displayed on stricken fields by the men who followed Grant, and Sherman, and Thomas, and Sheridan, and Farragut.

As a nation we need to show in civic life exactly the qualities that those men showed in the days of strife. I earnestly hope that the need for war will never come to our people. If it does I know we can count with absolute certainty upon the people of the Northwest doing their duty in a way that shall show that they rise to the standard set by you, the men who followed Abraham Lincoln's call. And in peace there is the same need for these qualities that you showed in war that there would be in war itself. In peace as you want to show patriotism, so we have to show the spirit of decency, the spirit of morality, of fair and square dealing as between man and man; and, more than that, as it was not enough to be patriotic in the days of the Civil War, in addition to that you had to show the capacity to fight well, the capacity to do and dare; so now, in the field of civic endeavor, it is necessary not only that we shall have deeply imprinted in us the spirit of decency, that we shall govern our lives in accordance with the immutable law of righteousness, but it is also necessary that we should show ourselves men, men able to do men's work in the world. We need to show, now and in the future, in the upbuilding of this mighty nation, the same qualities of courage, of hardihood, of resolution and of endeavor that were shown by the men of the great Civil War.

And, oh, my countrymen, oh, my fellow Americans, as I have traveled from the Atlantic across this continent to the Pacific, the thing that has struck me most is the reality of the unity of our people which these men and their fellows achieved by force of arms. And, wherever I have gone, whatever audience I have addressed, the fact that has jumped to the eye was the fact that a good American is a good American in any part of this country.

And now, my fellow countrymen, I leave you. I believe in you, I am proud of you, and I am absolutely confident of the future, not only of this State, but of our entire country, because I know and you know that we have in us as a nation the spirit of youth, joined to the strength of manhood, and that we are resolute to face all the problems that confront us, the problems from within and the problems from without, in the spirit displayed by the men who upheld in the dark days the statesmanship of Lincoln and by their efforts made good the soldiership of Grant. Good-by and good luck.

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

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