Remarks in Walla Walla, Washington

May 25, 1903

Mr. President, and you, my fellow citizens:

I am particularly glad to have the chance of speaking from in front of this institution of learning, an institution which commemorates the name and the great deeds of one of America's worthiest men, of Whitman, who left his mark deep on the history of the nation. He was one of the leaders in that movement which settled that the region now marking the great States of Washington and Oregon was to exist and flourish under the American flag.

I cannot sufficiently congratulate you, Mr. President, upon what has been done here with this college. I wish to pay a special tribute here in Washington to the work done by the educators in Washington. You have wonderful resources within your borders. I thought I knew pretty fairly that you had a wonderful State, and my expectations were high, too, but I do not think I appreciated what a wonderful State it was.

Within the half century now opening Washington will take its place as among the leading States of the Union in wealth, power, population—in all that goes to make up greatness. You have wonderful material resources. They are indispensable as a foundation, but if you build nothing upon them, then you have only a foundation, and not a perfect structure. Do not misunderstand me. Every now and then I hear some one say, "You are slurring material well being; you do not pay proper heed to the architects of industry, to the captains of industry; you do not pay proper heed to business energy, business enterprise, which must underlie business success."

I do pay proper heed to them. You can no more build a great nation without them than you can build any building whatever with out its foundation; but they only make the foundation. On them you have to build the structure of the higher life—moral, intellectual, spiritual—or else our civilization is not, and will not, be what it should be.

I congratulate you, my fellow citizens, upon what you are doing here, in this great State, in bringing up your children worthily to continue the work that the pioneers began, and that you are helping carry to completion. We are a practical people, a business people, but we are infinitely more than merely a business people.

If you doubt my words, do not believe them. I appeal not to what I say, but to what the men of '61 to '65 did, to what the men, your brothers and sons, did in the Philippines. You men of the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln called you to arms, and your hearts leaped within you, did you think you were then influenced by merely business considerations? No. The men before they went to war, and during the lives they have led since they came back from the war, have been good, practical, hard-working Americans; but there were four years, the best four years of their lives, that they rendered a service for which there could be no adequate pay in gold or pecuniary reward for they showed themselves at that time willing to lay down all, life itself, in generous fealty to a lofty ideal.

Our country is great because our people had it in them to show such loftiness of spirit when the great appeal was made to them. We never would have built up this country if it had not been for the business energy, the business enterprise, of our people; but we would have broken into fifty jangling fragments if our people had only had that business enterprise, that business energy, when in '61 the guns of Sumter called to war.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Walla Walla, Washington Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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