Theodore Roosevelt Quotations

About his time in the New York assembly

We did not agree in all things, but we did in some, and those we pulled at together. That was my first lesson in real politics. It is just this: if you are cast on a desert island with only a screwdriver, a hatchet, and a chisel to make a boat with, why, go make the best one you can. It would be better if you had a saw, but you haven’t. So with men.

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A Book-Lover’s Holidays in the Open, 1916

Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the ‘the game belongs to the people.’ So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.

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An Autobiography, 1913

No man can lead a public career really worth leading, no man can act with rugged independence in serious crises, nor strike at great abuses, nor afford to make powerful and unscrupulous foes, if he is himself vulnerable in his private character.

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An Autobiography, 1913

There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.

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Talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmastime 1898

There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.

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Address at Clark University, Worcester, MA, June 21, 1901

The first duty of each one of you here is to carry your own weight – to carry yourselves. You are not going to be able to do anything for any one else until you can support yourselves and those dependent upon you. I do not want to see you develop that kind of idealism which makes you filled with vague thoughts of beneficence for mankind and an awful draw-back to your immediate families.

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Address at Grant’s Tomb, New York City, May 30, 1899

There is a time to be just and there is a time to be merciful, there is a time for unyielding resolution and a time for the hand of fellowship and brotherly love. The great man is the man who knows the time for one and the time for the other.

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About the joys of private life

For unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.