Remarks at the Third Baptist Academy in Jacksonville, Florida

October 21, 1905

My friends:

Let me say what a pleasure it has been in driving along the streets to have the Governor and the Mayor point out to me house after house owned by colored citizens, who by their own industry, energy and thrift had accumulated a small fortune, honestly, and were spending it wisely.

Every good American must be interested in seeing every other good American citizen rise, help himself upward, so as to be better able to do his duty by himself and those dependent upon him, and by the State at large. It seems to me that it is true of all of us that our duties are even more important than our rights. If we do our duties faithfully, in spite of the difficulties that come, then sooner or later the rights will take care of themselves. What I say to this body of my colored fellow citizens is just exactly what I would say to any body of my white fellow-citizens.

What we need in this country is typified by what I have been shown today as having been done by people of your race. We need education, morality, industry; we need intelligence, clean living, and the power to work hard and effectually. Noman interested, as every President must be, in the welfare of all his fellow-Americans could be otherwise than deeply pleased not only at the evidence of thrift and prosperity among what must be evidently many hundreds of your number here in this city, as shown by the homes that I have seen, but interested also in seeing an educational institute like this carried on as this institute evidently is carried on. The costliest crop for any community is the crop of ignorance. It is perfectly true that education in mind alone won't make a good citizen; but it is equally true that you cannot get the best citizen without education.

We need to have our people of every race educated, as the principal said in his words of introduction, in heart, mind and hands; educated so that heads and hands can do their several tasks and have behind head and hand also the heart, the conscience, the sense of clean and just living which makes the foundation of all good citizens. That is just as true for the white man as for the colored man.

It is true of every man. I was very glad to listen to the singing today. I liked it all, including the last song. I wish I could have had a chance to listen to some of your educational exercises. I want to say a special word of acknowledgment to the school teachers, men and women alike, who are doing the work of education; and in saying that word, I also want to point out this—it is absolutely essential that we should have people do well in the professions, but that there is only a limited amount of room in the professions, and there is almost an unlimited amount of room for men in agriculture and in the mechanical trades.

Do your very best to develop good teachers, to develop good preachers—preachers who shall preach to the colored man as it should be preached to the white man, that by your fruits you shall know them and that the truly religious man is the man who is decent and clean in his private life, who is orderly and law-abiding; the man who hunts down the criminal and does all he can to stop crime and wrong doing; the man who treats his neighbor well, who is a good man in his own family, and therefore a good man in the State. That is what we have a right to expect from the Christian leadership which we see in the churches. All honor to the teacher, all honor to the preacher; but remember, it is perfectly impossible that the bulk of any people shall be teachers or preachers. The bulk has got to be men engaged in the trades and mechanics, as wage workers, as farmers. Every man who is a good farmer, a thrifty, progressive, saving mechanic, who owns his own house, which is free from debt; who is bringing up his children well and keeping his wife as she should be kept, is not only a first-class citizen, but is doing a mighty good work in helping to uplift his race.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Third Baptist Academy in Jacksonville, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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