TR Quotes on Voting, Politics, and Government in General

Thirty quotes that every American should read before heading to the polls.

Roosevelt campaigning during the 1904 presidential election. (Photo: history.com)

 

Quotes from Theodore Roosevelt are nearly infinite. Whether they’re from his numerous speeches or the roughly 35 books he authored, Roosevelt was a man of wit and wisdom throughout his life. Below are some, but by no means all, of the quotes attributed to Roosevelt on politics, America, voting, and the need for ethics at the national level.

 

“A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official.”

“Let us keep untarnished, unstained, the honor of the flag.”

“It is a good thing that the guard around the tomb of Lincoln should be composed of colored soldiers. It was my own good fortune at Santiago to serve beside colored troops. A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterward. More than that no man is entitled to, and less than that no man shall have.”

“The government is us; we are the government, you and I.”

“This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who fails. We put him in jail. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country.”

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in if it is not a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.”

“There is but the scantiest justification for most of the outcry against the men of wealth as such; and it ought to be unnecessary to state that any appeal which directly or indirectly leads to suspicion and hatred among ourselves, which tends to limit opportunity, and therefore to shut the door of success against poor men of talent, and, finally, which entails the possibility of lawlessness and violence, is an attack upon the fundamental properties of American citizenship.”

“Poverty is a bitter thing; but it is not as bitter as the existence of restless vacuity and physical, moral, and intellectual flabbiness, to which those doom themselves who elect to spend all their years in that vainest of all vain pursuits—the pursuit of mere pleasure as a sufficient end in itself.”

“It is true of the nation, as of the individual, that the greatest doer must also be a great dreamer. Of course, if the dream is not followed by action, then it is a bubble; it has merely served to divert the man from doing something.”

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”

“You, the sons of the pioneers, if you are true to your ancestry, must make your lives as worthy as they made theirs. They sought for true success, and therefore they did not seek ease. They knew that success comes only to those who lead the life of endeavor.”

“It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced.”

“Our country has been populated by pioneers, and therefore it has in it more energy, more enterprise, more expansive power than any other in the wide world. . . . They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance, and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all, they have recognized in practical form the fundamental law of success in American life—the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor. We have but little room among our people for the timid, the irresolute, and the idle; and it is no less true that there is scant room in the world at large for the nation with mighty thews that dares not to be great.”

“No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favor.”

“Throughout our history the success of the homemaker has been but another name for the up-building of the nation.”

“Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language. And we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

“The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

“Conservation and rural-life policies are really two sides of the same policy; and down at bottom this policy rests upon the fundamental law that neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, thought is steadily taken for the future.”

“If the minority is as powerful as the majority there is no use of having political contests at all, for there is no use in having a majority.”

“I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope—the door of opportunity—is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color. Such an attitude would, according to my convictions, be fundamentally wrong.”

“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

“Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.”

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

“All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law.”

“It is a very poor thing, whether for nations or individuals, to advance the history of great deeds done in the past as an excuse for doing poorly in the present; but it is an excellent thing to study the history of the great deeds of the past, and of the great men who did them, with an earnest desire to profit thereby so as to render better service in the present.”

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.”

“We demand that big business give the people a square deal; in return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right, he shall himself be given a square deal.”

“Of all the officers of the government, those of the Department of Justice should be kept most free from any suspicion of improper action on partisan or factional grounds, so that there shall be gradually a growth, even though a slow growth, in the knowledge that the Federal courts and the representatives of the Federal Department of Justice insist on meting out even-handed justice to all.”

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

 

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