Remarks at the Banquet of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
Mr. Toastmaster, Mr. President, compatriots, and fellow Americans:
It is a pleasure to take part in greeting you this evening. Societies that cultivate patriotism in the present by keeping alive the memory of what we owe to the patriotism of the past, fill an indispensable function in this Republic. You come here to-night from every quarter—from every State of the Republic and from the islands of the Eastern Seas. The Republic has put up its flag in those islands, and the flag will stay there.
I am glad to meet you here to-night—you, the descendants of the statesmen and soldiers who fought to establish this country in 1776, some of the older among whom, and the fathers of the others, fought with no less valor wearing the blue or the gray in the Civil War. May we now show our fealty to the great men who did the great deeds of the past, not alone by word but by deed! May we prove ourselves true to them, not merely by paying homage to their memory, but by so shaping the policy of this great Republic as to make it evident that we are not unworthy of our sires. They did justice, and we will do justice. They did justice as strong men, not as weaklings; and we will show ourselves strong men and not weaklings.
Before me I see men who lived in iron times, men who did great deeds. I see here a delegate from Kentucky who served under Farragut in the great days of the Civil War. I see a descendant of a man from Connecticut who was called Brother Jonathan. All around these tables are gathered men the names of whose ancestors stand not only for righteousness but also for strength—for both qualities, gentlemen. Righteousness finds weakness but a poor yoke-fellow. With righteousness must go strength to make that righteousness of avail. And in the names of the mighty men of the past I ask each man here to do his part in seeing that this nation remains true in deed as well as in word to the ideals of the past; to remember that we can no more afford to show weakness than we can afford to do wrong. Where wrong has been done by anyone the wrong-doer shall be punished; but we shall not halt in our great work because some man has happened to do wrong.
Honor to the statesmen of the past, and may the statesmen of the present strive to live up to the example they set! Honor to the army and navy of the past! And honor to those gallant Americans wearing the uniform of the American Republic who in the army and the navy of the present day uphold gloriously the most glorious traditions of the past!
Another thing, compatriots of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution: We are Americans, and that means that we treat Americanism primarily as a matter of spirit and purpose, and in the broadest sense we regard every man as a good American, whatever his creed, whatever his birthplace, if he is true to the ideals of this republic.
To-day I have been down to Annapolis to see the graduating class of the Naval Academy; and it would have done your hearts good to have seen those fine, manly, upstanding young fellows who looked every man straight in the face without flinching. We may be sure that the honor of the Republic is safe in their hands.
I was glad to meet those young fellows today. I am glad to meet representatives of the navy like you, Admiral Watson, and of the army like you, General Breckenridge. I am glad that we, as Americans, have cause to be proud of the army and the navy of the United States—of the men who in the past have upheld the honor of the flag, and of their successors, the soldiers and sailors of the present day, who during the last three years have done such splendid work in the inconceivably dangerous and harassing warfare of the eastern tropics.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Banquet of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343463