Remarks in Van Wert, Iowa

April 28, 1903

My fellow citizens:

It is indeed a pleasure to meet you this morning and to come through your great and beautiful state. I do not wonder that Iowa has taken the position it has in the councils of the Nation, that it has assumed the leadership which it has done, when I see not merely your soil, your farms, your products, but those best of all products—the men and women. You have in the territory the raw material out of which to make the state, but it has been made because those in it have had in them the stuff with which to make it.

At every place that I have stopped I have seen men carrying the button which recalls to mind the fact that, in the time that tried men's souls, Iowa sent her sons to the front to pour out their blood like water for the cause of the Union. The qualities that these men showed in military life are after all the same qualities which we need in order to bring success in civil affairs. Unless there is a fundamental spirit of decency, of honesty, of regard for right living no success will come to the state any more than to the individual. Of all qualities to be abhorred in a republic like ours the quality which is some times called smartness, ability unaccompanied by scruple, is the worst. That is the quality which makes a bad neighbor and an evil public servant. The abler, the more fearless a man is, if he has not got the root of decent living in him, the more dangerous he is to the state. We must have as the basis of citizenship a high ideal, a decent observance of the law and of the relationships of human society. But such alone will not avail. In addition to virtue if you are to make it count, you have to have strength and courage back of it. But little can be done with a man who is afraid. The timid man is of no use, I do not care how good he is. And scant need be our patience with the virtue which sits at home, in its own house, and says how bad the world is. You want morality, decency, high thinking, and in addition you must have the qualities which we speak of when we say of anyone that he is not merely a good man, but a man. The qualities that make a man fit to do his work in the actual hurly burly of real life; the qualities which, if we are wise, each of us will strive to instill into the minds of his sons, of his daughters, so as to teach the boy and the girl that the thing to do in life is not to find some way of dodging difficulties, but to meet them and over come them. In the great war, in addition to being patriots, it was necessary to have the quality of staying "put." You needed in the army the men who loved their country, and you also needed the man who did not run, or, if he ran, ran in the right direction. You had to have a combination of the two qualities.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Van Wert, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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