Remarks at the Naval Young Men's Christian Association in Brooklyn, New York City
Officers and enlisted men of the United States Navy, and you, friends of the navy, for if you are good Americans you can be nothing else: I made up my mind to-day, since my invitations were extended to me, that I could not refuse to come to this building and meet you here. I don't have to tell you that I believe with all my heart in the navy of the United States, and I believe in what counts most in the navy—the officers and enlisted men—the man behind the gun, the man in the engine-room, the man in the conning tower, the man, whoever he is, who is doing his duty.
I feel we owe a peculiar debt of gratitude to those who have taken the lead in securing this building. The people of the United States should make it their special duty to see to the welfare of the men on whose exertions, on whose skill and prowess, and on whose character in the time of a crisis the honor of the entire nation will depend, and all respect is due to those, especially Miss Gould, who have erected this building, who have given expression to the spirit that lies behind the building up of everything of this nature.
We are past the period when it was thought a man if he was made decent could not fight. I have had a good deal of experience in civil life, and I never found a job in civil life to which, other things being equal, I would not prefer to appoint a man who had served in the army or navy of the United States, because such a man, if he is worth his salt, has learned certain qualities which double and treble his value in any position in which he may be placed.
Much as I believe in the work of the Young Men's Christian Association, I believe in it most when it takes such shape as this. And now I say to you men that on you a heavy responsibility rests, because it depends on the way you do your duty in peace whether, should ever the need of war arise, our flag shall receive credit or discredit at your hands or at the hands of your successors.
Nothing has given Americans better cause for satisfaction than the way target practice has gone up in the navy, until I think we can say that there are certain gun crews and certain individual gun pointers who have reached as high a degree of excellence as it is possible to reach.
More and more our people are waking up to the need of a navy, and in view of events happening all over the world, I think we can count on Congress to continue to build up our navy. It certainly will, if I can persuade it. It is all important to have ships the best in hull, the best in armor, and the best in armament of any nation in the world.
Lamentable and terrible though the recent accident on the Missouri was, there were things connected with it to make every American feel a sense of proud confidence in the officers and enlisted men in whom Uncle Sam confides his honor. When the accident occurred there were fully twenty minutes when every man knew that any moment the ship might sink. Yet there wasn't a touch of nervousness among the men, there was no sign of any one being rattled. Each man went to his quarters and stayed there. You had the coolness and the fighting edge.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Naval Young Men's Christian Association in Brooklyn, New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343601