Remarks at the Opening Session of the Military Surgeons' Association
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:
I am glad to have the opportunity to bid welcome to the members of this Association and their friends to—day. The men of your Association combine two professions, each of which is rightfully held in high honor by all capable of appreciating the real work of men—the profession of the soldier and the profession of the doctor. Conditions in modern civilization tend more and more to make the average life of the community one of great ease, compared to what has been the case in the past. Together with what advantages have come from this softening of life and rendering it more easy there are certain attendant disadvantages. It is a very necessary thing that there should be some professions, some trades, where the same demands are made now as ever in the past upon the heroic qualities. Those demands are made alike upon the soldier and upon the doctor, and more upon those who are both soldiers and doctors, upon the men who have continually to face all the responsibility, all the risk, faced by their brothers in the civilian branch of the profession, and who also, in time of war, must face much the same risks, often exactly the same risks, that are faced by their brothers in arms whose trade is to kill and not to cure! It has been my good fortune, gentlemen, to see some of your body at work in the field, to see them carrying the wounded and the dying from the firing-line, themselves as much exposed to danger as those they were rescuing, and to see them working day and night in the field hospital afterward when even the intensity of the strain could hardly keep them awake, so fagged out were they by having each to do the work of ten.
I welcome you here, and I am glad to have the chance of seeing you, and I wish to say a word of congratulation to you upon this Association. In all our modern life we have found it absolutely indispensable to supplement the work of the individual by the work of the individuals gathered into an association. Without this work of the association you cannot give the highest expression to individual endeavor, and it would be a great misfortune if the military members of the surgical and medical profession did not take every advantage of their opportunities in the same way that is taken by the members of the medical and the surgical professions who are not in the army or the navy or the marine hospital service—who are in civilian life outside. I am glad to see you gathered in this association. Just one word of warning: Pay all possible heed to the scientific side of your work; perfect yourselves as scientific men able to work with the best and most delicate apparatus; and never for one moment forget—especially the higher officers among you—that in time of need you will have to do your work with the scantiest possible apparatus! and that then your usefulness will be conditioned not upon the adequacy of the complaint that you did not have apparatus enough, but upon what you have done with the insufficient apparatus you had. Remember that and remember also—and this especially applies to the higher officers—that you must supplement in your calling the work of the surgeon with the work of the administrator. You must be doctors and military men and able administrators.
Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Opening Session of the Military Surgeons' Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343482