Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

American Politician, Naturalist, Explorer, Hunter, Author, and Soldier, 26th President of the United States

"I think there is only one quality worse than hardness of the heart, and that is softness of the head."

"A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can. It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune, make for a finer, nobler type of manhood. Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die, and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of the life and the duty of life."

"In a republic, we must learn to combine intensity of conviction with a broad tolerance of difference of conviction."

"Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time."

"It is impossible to win the great prizes of life without running risks, and the greatest of all prizes are those connected with the home... But life is a great adventure, and the worst of all fears is the fear of living."

"Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground."

"No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency."

"The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer."

"The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people."

"The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life."

"The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant, not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man's making shall be the servant, not the master of the man who made it."

"To educate man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

"There can be no substitute for elemental virtues... only by each of us steadfastly keeping in mind that there can be no substitute for the world-old commonplace qualities of truth, justice and courage, thrift, industry, common sense and genuine sympathy with the fellow feelings of others."

"All the resources we need are in the mind."

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

"It is safe to say that the prosperity of our people depends directly on the energy and intelligence with which our natural resources are used. It is equally clear that these resources are the final basis of national power and perpetuity. Finally, it is ominously evident that these resources are in the course of rapid exhaustion."

"In the past we have admitted the right of the individual to injure the future of the Republic for his own present profit. In fact there has been a good deal of a demand for unrestricted individualism, for the right of the individual to injure the future of all of us for his own temporary and immediate profit. The time has come for a change. As a people we have the right and the duty, second to moral law, of requiring and doing justice, to protect ourselves and our children against the wasteful development of our natural resources, whether that waste is caused by the actual destruction of such resources or by making them impossible of development hereafter."

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

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft."

"Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time."

"A just war is in the long run far better for a nation’s soul than the most prosperous peace obtained by acquiescence toward wrong or injustice. Moreover, though it is criminal for a nation not to prepare for war, so that it may escape the dreadful consequences of being defeated in war, it must always be remembered that even to be defeated in war is far better than never to have fought at all."

"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

"For us in the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out."

"Power always brings with it responsibility. You cannot have power to work well without having so much power as to be the able to work ill."

"No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well-being, to risk his life, in a great cause."

"It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at last fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

"The vice of envy is… always a confession of inferiority."

"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything."

"Prosperity can only be lasting if it is based on justice."

"Power undirected by high purpose spells calamity; and high purpose by itself is utterly useless if the power to put it into effect is lacking."

"When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer "Present" or "Not Guilty.""

"This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in."

"The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives."

"Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted."

"A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."

"A man must first care for his own household before he can be of use to the state. But no matter how well he cares for his household, he is not a good citizen unless he also takes thought of the state. In the same way, a great nation must think of its own internal affairs; and yet it cannot substantiate its claim to be a great nation unless it also thinks of its position in the world at large."

"A healthy-minded boy should feel hearty contempt for the coward and even more hearty indignation for the boy who bullies girls or small boys, or tortures animals....What we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man."

"A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy."

"A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. [...] If you are rich and are worth your salt, you will teach your sons that though they may have leisure, it is not to be spent in idleness; for wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non-remunerative work in science, in letters, in art, in exploration, in historical research—work of the type we most need in this country, the successful carrying out of which reflects most honor upon the nation. We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth's surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise."

"A heavy progressive tax upon a very large fortune is in no way such a tax upon thrift or industry as a like would be on a small fortune. No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood. We have not the slightest sympathy with that socialistic idea which would try to put laziness, thriftlessness and inefficiency on a par with industry, thrift and efficiency; which would strive to break up not merely private property, but what is far more important, the home, the chief prop upon which our whole civilization stands. Such a theory, if ever adopted, would mean the ruin of the entire country — a ruin which would bear heaviest upon the weakest, upon those least able to shift for themselves. But proposals for legislation such as this herein advocated are directly opposed to this class of socialistic theories. Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be an equality of self-respect and of mutual respect, an equality of rights before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to his fellows."

"A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards. More than that no man is entitled to, and less than that no man shall have."

"A man who never graduated from school might steal from a freight car. But a man who attends college and graduates as a lawyer might steal the whole railroad."

"A party should not contain utterly incongruous elements, radically divided on the real issues, and acting together only on false and dead issues insincerely painted as real and vital. It should not in the several States as well as in the Nation be prostituted to the service of the baser type of political boss. It should be so composed that there should be a reasonable agreement in the actions taken by it both in the Nation and in the several States."

"A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world. In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk."

"A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high plane; the negro, for instance, has been kept down as much by lack of intellectual development as by anything else; but the prime factor in the preservation of a race is its power to attain a high degree of social efficiency. Love of order, ability to fight well and breed well, capacity to subordinate the interests of the individual to the interests of the community, these and similar rather humdrum qualities go to make up the sum of social efficiency. The race that has them is sure to overturn the race whose members have brilliant intellects, but who are cold and selfish and timid, who do not breed well or fight well, and who are not capable of disinterested love of the community. In other words, character is far more important than intellect to the race as to the individual. We need intellect, and there is no reason why we should not have it together with character; but if we must choose between the two we choose character without a moment's hesitation."

"A just war is in the long run far better for a nation's soul than the most prosperous peace obtained by acquiescence in wrong or injustice."

"A typical vice of American politics — the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues, and the announcement of radical policies with much sound and fury, and at the same time with a cautious accompaniment of weasel phrases each of which sucks the meat out of the preceding statement."

"Absence and death are the same - only that in death there is no suffering."

"Above all, in this speech, as in so many others, he taught a lesson in wise kindliness and charity; an indispensable lesson to us of to-day, for if we approach the work of reform in a spirit of vindictiveness-in a spirit of reckless disregard for the rights of others, or of hatred for men because they are better off than ourselves—we are sure in the end to do not good but damage to all mankind, and especially to those whose especial champions we pro-fess ourselves to be."

"A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user."