Remarks at the Dedication of the Theodore Roosevelt Home at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, as a National Shrine
Mr. Chairman, President Hoover, Governor Dewey, members of the Roosevelt family, and friends and admirers of Theodore Roosevelt:
My first act in the tribute that I hope to pay to our ex-President today is an official one. It is a Proclamation that I have to sign, and as I sign it, I shall read it to you.
It is headed [reading] "Theodore Roosevelt Week. By the President of the United States of America, A Proclamation.
"Whereas Theodore Roosevelt holds an honored place in the annals of our country as a spirited soldier, a farsighted statesman, an intrepid explorer, and a forceful writer; and
"Whereas the dedication of Theodore Roosevelt's home at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, as a national shrine is to take place during the week of June 14, 1953; and
"Whereas the Congress, by a joint resolution approved on June 13, 1953, has designated the week beginning June 14, 1953, as Theodore Roosevelt Week, in honor of our former President, and has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe that week by paying tribute to the achievements and memory of Theodore Roosevelt:
"Now, therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon the people of the United States to observe the week beginning June 14, 1953, as Theodore Roosevelt Week by paying tribute to the achievements and memory of that great American, and I urge interested individuals and organizations to take part in appropriate ceremonies commemorative of the inspiring role of Theodore Roosevelt in our national heritage.
"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and Seal." [The President then signed the Proclamation] Which I trust makes this ceremony the beginning of a week of spontaneous tribute to one of the greatest Americans that we have produced.
I want to refer, for a second, to the Army and some of its practices. In its schools and in its educational systems, we are required to study the processes, the acts and decisions of leaders of the past. Now, contrary to popular notion, these studies are not confined to the decisions of military commanders. We look up and study the actions of leaders, to see what were the problems facing them; how did they analyze them; how did they reach their decisions; what did they do.
One of the men who was a favorite for study in my generation was Theodore Roosevelt. Now, there is one thing that I should like to speak about that I learned during that study. We are apt, I think, when we cast our minds back to dramatic figures of the past, to overdramatize them. For he seems, Teddy Roosevelt, a rough rider. We like to think of him, in his relationships with the Congress, that he galloped down Pennsylvania Avenue on a spirited charger, with sabre drawn, and rushed into the House and Senate, demanded what he wanted, and rode out with everybody cowed.
And that, in more or less similarity, is paralleled in every picture we have in our minds of what he did. But the fact is that he was a wise leader. He was not a swashbuckler and he was not a bull in a china shop.
Governor Dewey has spoken about the illustrious predecessor he had up in Albany. And when he went up there, he found that a great branch of his party, headed by Mr. Platt, was horrified at some of the programs for which Teddy Roosevelt stood. And did he get a ball-bat and pound him over the head? Did he take the stump and curse this man? He did not. His biographers say that he set out to win this man, and they said he resorted to cajolery. He used every form of polite advance that there was open to him including, the biographer says, many breakfasts.
I want to point out that leaders do become different things in our minds. Often when they have been possessed of certain dramatic mannerisms, they are quite apt to get lopsided in our minds. Here was a man who was rounded. He not only was the great moral leader that Governor Dewey spoke about, possessed of great moral courage, a great soldier in his regiment. He was a great leader and a great student and a great writer. His "Winning of the West" is today a classic. He was a man who understood his fellow human beings. He understood those things for which they yearned and which they deserved under the principles in which he believed.
And he set out by patient work. Nothing was too mean for him to do. Nothing was too difficult for him to tackle. There was no one of whom he was frightened as he started to do them. And he had the stamina, the courage, the persistence to carry through.
I remember as a young officer in World War I, I saw in the paper that he had volunteered his services to command a division if his Government wanted him. And I remember so well, in the regiment in which I was then serving in Texas, at least half a dozen young officers went up to the Adjutant to put down our names to say could we go to the division commanded by Theodore Roosevelt.
That, I think, explains what he meant to us as young men. In these later years, as we look back and study his career, and get more perspective, it grows only more brilliant with time. I believe it will continue to do so. I think that along with the dedication of this house today, if each of us could dedicate himself to attempt to emulate Theodore Roosevelt in his consideration for what we so futilely call "the common man" for want of a better word--that if we could emulate the devotion of that American citizen to all citizens, if we could have his courage in carrying through, his wisdom in seeing what was right and adhering to the right, then I am quite certain that not only will Sagamore Hill and this house stand as a great monument, but each of us in his own way will build a little monument to America.
And that is what, after all, he did. He built a monument to America.
My friends, thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 5:12 p.m. His opening words "Mr. Chairman" referred to Leonard W. Hall, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, who was also the chairman of the dedication ceremonies.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Dedication of the Theodore Roosevelt Home at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, as a National Shrine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231613