Remarks at the Music Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio
Governor Gordon, Mr. Mayor, Senator Foraker and you, the Captains of Industry, and you, my fellow Americans, men and women of this great and beautiful city:
I am glad indeed to have the chance to come out to this festival, this industrial exposition, held here in your great city—one of those expositions called "the timekeepers of progress"—by the great states man and patriot whom Ohio claims, but whom the nation claims no less, the martyred President, William McKinley, and whose memory the nation will ever keep in its heart as a symbol of that public and private virtue which lies under all national greatness.
Cincinnati is a city which by its name commemorates the organization of the officers of the Revolutionary army— the organization which was the Loyal Legion of the men in blue and buff who followed Washington. Cincinnati stands on the site of the great frontier fort, the log fort, raised to protect our frontier against the Indians at a time when this nation expanded, and Cincinnati stands in that Northwest, which is to a peculiar degree the property of all the nation, for it is in that Northwest Territory organized under the famous Ordinance of 1787 which consecrated this portion of the Union forever to freedom, so that it was most fitting that this part of the country which is the old Northwest, which is now the Central West, the center of the country, should by virtue of the conditions under which it was created and grew, become when the crisis of '61 was upon us the leader in the great struggle for the Union and for freedom.
Cincinnati is prospering marvelously, and under the theory of our National Government, which was invoked when this country became a part of the nation, the nation must continue to do its part in helping secure the prosperity of Cincinnati and of the entire Ohio Valley by seeing that the policy of the improvement of the Ohio River is continued.
Our Government is a practical exemplification of the great principle of each for all and all for each. The whole country is benefited by whatever benefits one part. This Valley of the Ohio, this valley which includes the drainage basins of portions of some thirteen states, is one of the great seats of the future industry, not only of this country, but of the world, and it is to the interest of all the country to see you prosper; and you will prosper even more than at present as the great waterways are made more accessible to larger vessels from here to the gulf, and that will take place coincidently with the beginning of the great work which is to connect the Pacific and the Atlantic by an Isthmian Canal—a work destined to be one of the giant performances, one of the giant material works of the twentieth century a work surpassing in magnitude anything of the kind that has ever before been attempted in the history of mankind. And yet, my fellow countrymen, in speaking of your material prosperity, do not think that I forget for one moment the fundamental fact that this great material prosperity rests upon the intellectual and moral fiber of the men and women back of it. You have a marvelously fertile region, you have a great river, but the main thing that you have is the spirit of your citizens. That is what counts most.
Natural advantages are nothing but opportunities, and you must have the men to take advantage of them or they will be wasted opportunities.
In the end a community depends for success upon the average standard of efficiency and decency of its citizenship. The conditions change from decade to decade. You, the heads of the industries which have brought about the prosperity of this city, work under different conditions from those under which your forefathers worked; but after all, in the last analysis the qualities that brought success in their day are the qualities needed to secure success now. That is true of peace as it was true of war. I passed through the ranks of the veterans, your comrades, Senator Foraker, on the way up here—the ranks of those who fought in a war in which striplings who had yet to go to college went in the ranks and came back with commissions, and, Senator Foraker, your son and I fought in a very small war afterward. Now, the men of the Civil War, the men who followed Grant and Sherman and Thomas and Sheridan, were differently armed from the men who followed Washington and Mad Anthony Wayne in 1776 to 1782; they were drilled in different tactics, but the spirit that drove them to victory was the same. We saw Appomattox crown the four years of doubtful struggle in 1865, because the men who wore the blue that followed Grant had in them the same lofty and generous action that those had who, under Washington, saw the six years of the Revolutionary struggle end in the victory at Yorktown.
And now, should there happen, which I not only earnestly hope, but believe, never will happen, should this country ever become engaged in another serious war, the tactics will be different, the weapons used will be small caliber, high power, smokeless powder rifles; there will be no longer the old elbow to elbow touch; the fighting must be in open order; the drill will be different, too. If victory comes it will come because the sons have in them the stuff out of which the sires were made. Back of the material, and greater than the material, lies the moral. You have won here in peace, we as a nation have won in peace, because we have achieved the material success that has raised us so high through the development of the individual character of the individual citizen. Intellect is a good thing; bodily strength is a good thing; but what counts in the long run is character; character into which enter as the fundamental elements honesty, courage and common sense. So, Governor Gordon, in thanking you for giving me the chance to be present today and to greet these, the business men of Cincinnati, I congratulate you and them. I congratulate your great and mighty city upon its past, upon its future, upon its material well being, and, above all, upon that upon which its well being depends, upon the qualities of character that make good and strong citizenship everywhere in this our land.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Music Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343528