Quote of the Day

Theodore Roosevelt was a very effective writer and speaker, and he is eminently quotable. For each of the quotes below, the Theodore Roosevelt Center has provided a brief explanation of the setting or the context in which TR made the statement.

The TR Quote of the Day App, available in the Mac App Store or Android Market for your iOS and Android devices, also includes a TR Quiz to test your knowledge about our 26th president.

Featured Quote for October 19, 2017:

Normally I care for a novel if the ending is good, and I quite agree with you that if the hero has to die he ought to die worthily and nobly, so that our sorrow at the tragedy shall be tempered with the joy and pride one always feels when a man does hi duty well and bravely. There is quite enough sorrow and shame and suffering and baseness in real life, and there is no need for meeting it unnecessarily in fiction.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote these sentiments to his son Kermit in 1905. Kermit had just completed Nicholas Nickleby, the novel about the long-suffering but gallant young man written by Charles Dickens.


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October 18, 2017
There are employers to-day who, like the great coal operators, speak as though they were lords of these countless armies of Americans, who toil in factory, in shop, in mill, and in the dark places under the earth. They fail to see that all these men have the right and the duty to combine to protect themselves and their families from want and degradation.
Theodore Roosevelt’s attitude towards labor underwent significant changes in the course of his life. He came to believe that the excesses of industrial gigantism could only be checked by the labor movement and by the regulations of the national government. This is from his Autobiography of 1913.
October 17, 2017
No other animal, not the lion himself, is so constant a theme of talk, and a subject of such unflagging interest round the camp-fires of African hunters and in the native villages of the African wilderness, as the elephant. Indeed the elephant has always profoundly impressed the imagination of mankind. It is, not only to hunters, but to naturalists, and to all people who possess any curiosity about wild creatures and the wild life of nature, the most interesting of all animals.
Roosevelt saw no contradiction between his love of the natural world, including majestic creatures like the elephant, and his passion for hunting big game. During his yearlong Africa safari, Roosevelt and his son Kermit killed eleven elephants. This passage comes from Roosevelt’s book, African Game Trails, published in 1910.
October 16, 2017
The longer I have lived the more strongly I have felt the harm done by the practice among so many men of keeping their consciences in separate compartments; sometimes a Sunday conscience and a weekday conscience; sometimes a conscience as to what they say or what they like other people to say, and another conscience as to what they do and like other people to do; sometimes a conscience for their private affairs and a totally different conscience for their business relations. Or again, there may be one compartment in which the man keeps his conscience not only for his domestic affairs but for his business affairs, and a totally different compartment in which he keeps his conscience when he deals with public men and public measures.
Theodore Roosevelt believed that the Republican Party presidential nomination had been stolen from him unjustly in 1912. This quote, from a series of lectures he gave in California in 1911, highlights TR’s impatience with those whose ethics changed with the situation.
October 15, 2017
There is much less need of genius or any special brilliancy in the administration of our government than there is need of such homely virtues and qualities as common sense, honesty, and courage.
This was a life-long sentiment for Theodore Roosevelt. He included this sentence in his inaugural address as governor of New York, on 2 January 1899.
October 14, 2017
It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger.
Theodore Roosevelt's life was characterized by this emphasis on action. While he authored over two dozen books, an enormous number of articles on an astounding variety of subjects, and around 155,000 letters, TR nevertheless esteemed those men and women who, in modern parlance, "walked the walk."
October 13, 2017
I am not in the least surprised about the mental telepathy; there is much in it and in kindred things which are real and which at present we do not understand.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote this to his daughter in 1906, when mental telepathy resurfaced as a fad considered the purview of “cranks” and crackpots (like socialist author Sinclair Lewis). TR either voiced a kind response to Ethel or gave evidence that like Hamlet, he believed there were "more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies."
October 12, 2017
I urge you to have the widest toleration in matters of opinion, but to have no toleration at all when it comes to matters of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule.
Theodore Roosevelt called these "the fundamental, essential principles, which must live in the heart of every American citizen, and by which every man asking place or political power must be tested" in an 1899 speech in New York.
October 11, 2017
The issue of valueless watered stock does not come in point of morality one whit above the issuing of counterfeit money.
In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt called to task the large corporations of his day for issuing stock purposefully valued at more than their assets. This "watered stock" caused, as he put it in 1913, both "the innocent investor" and the public to suffer. Hence his continued calls for corporate regulation.
October 10, 2017
I hope in the end to see legislation which will punish the circulation of untruth, and above all of slanderous untruth, in a newspaper or magazine meant to be read by the public; which will punish such action as severely as we punish the introduction into commerce of adulterated food falsely described and meant to be eaten by the public.
Theodore Roosevelt took newspapers to task for personal attacks that had nothing to do with the facts of the case or the truth of the man’s character. This cri de Coeur occurred in 1911, as the 1912 presidential race loomed.
October 9, 2017
Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess it becomes foolishness.
The Progressive Era, over which Theodore Roosevelt presided, was undergirded by a fundamental optimism and a belief that substantial, positive, and systemic change was possible. TR balanced that optimism with a healthy dose of pragmatism.
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