Remarks at the Celebration of the 110th Anniversary of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church
Cardinal Gibbons, Father Stafford, and you, my fellow Americans:
It is a great pleasure to me to be present with you to-day to assist at the dedication of the school, hall and rectory of this parish, a parish whose one hundred and tenth anniversary we also now celebrate. For this parish was founded six years before the National Capital was placed in the present District of Columbia. I am glad, in deed, to have been introduced, Cardinal Gibbons, by you, the spiritual representative, in a peculiar sense, of that Bishop Carroll who played so illustrious a part in the affairs of the Church and whose kinsfolk played so illustrious a part in the affairs of the nation at the dawning of this government.
In greeting all of you, I wish to say that I am especially glad to see the children present. You know I believe in children. I want to see enough of them and of the right kind.
I wish to-day in the very brief remarks that I have to make, to dwell upon this thought—the thought that ought to be in the minds of every man and woman here—the thought that while in this country we need wise laws, honestly and fearlessly executed, and while we cannot afford to tolerate anything but the highest standard in the public service of the government, yet in the last analysis the future of the country must depend upon the quality of the individual man or woman in the home. The future of this country depends upon the way in which the average man or the average woman in it does his or her duty, and that very largely depends upon the way in which the average boy or girl is brought up. Therefore a peculiar responsibility rests upon those whose lifework it is to see to the spiritual welfare of our people and upon those who make it their lifework to try to train the citizens of the future so that they shall be worthy of that future.
In wishing you well to-day, I wish you well in doing the most important work which is allotted to any of our people to do. The rules of good citizenship are tolerably simple. The trouble is not in finding them out, the trouble is in living up to them after they have been found out. I think we all of us know fairly well what qualities they are which in their sum make up the type of character we like to see in man or wife, son or daughter. But I am afraid we do not always see them as well developed as we would like to. I wish to see in the average American citizen the development of the two sets of qualities, which we can roughly indicate as sweetness and strength the qualities on the one hand which make the man able to hold his own, and those which on the other hand make him jealous of the rights of others just as much as for his own rights.
We must have both sets of qualities. In the first place, the man must have the power to hold his own. You probably know that I do not care very much for the coward or the moral weakling. I want each of you boys and the girls just as much, and each of you young men and young women, to have the qualities without which people may be amiable and pleasant while things go well, but without which they cannot succeed in times of stern trial. I wish to see in the man manliness, in the woman womanliness. I wish to see courage, per severance, the willingness to face work, to face, you men, if it is necessary, danger, the determination not to shrink back when temporarily beaten in life, as each one will be now and then, but to come up again and wrest triumph from defeat. I want to see you men strong men, and brave men, and in addition I wish to see each man of you feel that his strength and his courage but make him the worse unless to that strength and courage are joined the qualities of tender ness toward those he loves, who are dependent upon him, and right dealing with all his neighbors.
Finally, I want to congratulate all of us here on certain successes that we have achieved in the century and a quarter that has gone by of our American life. We have difficulties forward, and we are a long way short of perfection. I do not see any immediate danger of our growing too good. There is ample room for effort yet. But we have achieved certain results, we have succeeded in measurably realizing certain ideals. We have grown to accept it as an axiomatic truth of our American life that the man is to be treated on his worth as a man, without regard to the accidents of his position; that this is not a government designed to favor the rich man as such, or the poor man as such, but that it is designed to favor every man, rich or poor, if he is a decent man who acts fairly by his fellows. We have grown to realize that part of the foundations upon which our liberty rests is the right of each man to worship his Creator according to the dictates of his conscience and the duty of each man to respect his fellow who so worships him. And, oh, my countrymen, one of the best auguries for the future of this country, for the future of this mighty and majestic nation of ours, lies in the fact that we have grown to regard one another with a broad and kindly charity, and to realize that the field for human endeavor is wide, that the field for charitable, philanthropic, religious work is wide, and that while a corner of it remains untilled we do a dreadful wrong if we fail to welcome the work done in that field by every man, no matter what his creed, provided only he works with a lofty sense of his duty to God and his duty to his neighbor.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Celebration of the 110th Anniversary of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343660