Remarks in Shenandoah, Iowa
Mr. Mayor, and you, my fellow citizens:
It is a very great pleasure to greet you this morning and to say a word of appreciation to you for coming here to welcome me. In thanking all of you, I know the others will not object to my saying a special word of greeting to the men who, from ' 1 to '65, did the great deeds because of which we now have a country; because of which there is a President to come and speak with you. It has always seemed to me that after all in civil life what we have to do is merely to apply practically the principles which you and your comrades applied in the Civil War. It was not, in the last resort, genius or brilliancy that won in the Civil War. You needed that; you had to develop it in a sense; you had to develop finally, as the years went by, men like Grant, and Sherman, and Thomas, and Sheridan, and Farragut; but the factor that was decisive in the war was the fighting quality of the individual soldier. That is what counted; that is what you were concerned with knowing. You needed the uniform, the training, the rifle; you needed a good rifle; but the best rifle, if in the hands of a poor man would mean that he would be beaten by a good man with a club. It is the man that counts in the long run. We won because our people, from '61 to '65, had in them the stuff that made them see to it that the policy of Lincoln was upheld; that the course which he sought for most should be traveled undeviatingly. So it is in civil life now. We need all that there is at the command of the nation in special training to meet the problems that arise from time to time; and yet, in their ultimate analysis, these problems must be solved by just the same qualities which each man brings to solve the problems of his own life; which the soldiers of the Civil War brought to the solving of the problem that was ahead of them. In the first place we need honesty (and I use the word in its broadest acceptation), decency, the spirit that makes a man behave well in his own family, that makes him a good neighbor, a good friend—the spirit that makes one man love another, that makes both love and serve the state. In the Civil War the fundamental quality that you had to have was the quality that made you willing at need to lay down your lives for the flag the spirit of patriotism, the spirit of love of country. And by itself, that is not enough. You have got to have virtue, and you have got to have something more. In '61 to '65 it did not make any difference how patriotic a man was, if he did not have in him the stuff out of which you could make a fighting man you could do but little with him. I do not care how patriotic he was, if he was timid there was nothing to be done with him. Besides virtue, decency, honesty, you must have the qualities which we speak of when we say of a man that he is not only a good man, but emphatically a man. You must have hardihood, courage, strength, the desire not to sit at home in ease and say how wrong the world has gone, but the desire to go out and do your part to right it. You remember in '61 to '65 there was plenty to stay at home and say how poorly the war was being carried on, but the fellow that did the job was the man who went out and did his duty on the field of battle. That is the man that counts. And so it is now. The man that counts in life is the man that goes out and tries to do the thing. The man who makes his way in private life is not the man who dreams golden dreams, but the man who tries to put them into practice, who works at his profession, who tries to count in this world.
So it is in public life, and so it is in doing all the work of the Nation that has got to be done. In addition to virtue, in addition to the spirit of loving kindness, to the love that each man should have for his fellows, you must have the strong virile qualities, the qualities of hardihood, of manliness and courage. And finally, in addition to these two sets of qualities you must have another also. It makes but little difference how brave a man is, or how honest he is, if the man is a fool you can do but little with him. We need courage, we need decency, and we need the saving grace of common sense.
In concluding, my fellow citizens, after having thanked all of you, and thanked especially the men and women, I shall just say one word of congratulation upon the fact of meeting so many children. I am mighty glad of all your products, and of your children especially. I am glad to see that they are all right in quality and all right in quantity. I believe in the stock and I want to see it keep up.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Shenandoah, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343427