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Contents > Author > Theodore Roosevelt > Inaugural Address, 1905 1858- 1919
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Theodore Roosevelt
Inaugural Address, 1905
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My fellow-citizens, no people on earth have more cause to be
thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, in no spirit of
boastfulness in our own strength, but with gratitude to the Giver
of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have
enabled us to achieve so large a measure of well-being and of
happiness. To us as a people it has been granted to lay the
foundations of our national life in a new continent. We are the
heirs of the ages, and yet we have had to pay few of the penalties
which in old countries are exacted by the dead hand of a bygone
civilization. We have not been obliged to fight for our existence
against any alien race; and yet our life has called for the vigor and
effort without which the manlier and hardier virtues wither away.
Under such conditions it would be our own fault if we failed; and
the success which we have had in the past, the success which
we confidently believe the future will bring, should cause in us no
feeling of vainglory, but rather a deep and abiding realization of
all which life has offered us; a full acknowledgment of the responsibility
which is ours; and a fixed determination to show that under a free
government a mighty people can thrive best, alike as regards the
things of the body and the things of the soul.

Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected
from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and
we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by
the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of
the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such
responsibilities. Toward all other nations, large and small, our
attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must
show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are
earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward
them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights.
But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count
most when shown not by the weak but by the strong. While ever
careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less
insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace,
but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness.
We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are
afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever
have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be
able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.

Our relations with the other powers of the world are important;
but still more important are our relations among ourselves. Such
growth in wealth, in population, and in power as this nation has
seen during the century and a quarter of its national life is
inevitably accompanied by a like growth in the problems which
are ever before every nation that rises to greatness. Power
invariably means both responsibility and danger. Our forefathers
faced certain perils which we have outgrown. We now face other
perils, the very existence of which it was impossible that they
should foresee. Modern life is both complex and intense, and the
tremendous changes wrought by the extraordinary industrial
development of the last half century are felt in every fiber of our
social and political being. Never before have men tried so vast
and formidable an experiment as that of administering the
affairs of a continent under the forms of a Democratic republic.
The conditions which have told for our marvelous material
well-being, which have developed to a very high degree our
energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, have also brought
the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great
wealth in industrial centers. Upon the success of our experiment
much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as
regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free
self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations,
and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the
world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn. There
is no good reason why we should fear the future, but there is
every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding
from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing
to approach these problems with the unbending, unflinching
purpose to solve them aright.

Yet, after all, though the problems are new, though the tasks
set before us differ from the tasks set before our fathers who
founded and preserved this Republic, the spirit in which these
tasks must be undertaken and these problems faced, if our duty
is to be well done, remains essentially unchanged. We know
that self-government is difficult. We know that no people needs
such high traits of character as that people which seeks to
govern its affairs aright through the freely expressed will of the
freemen who compose it. But we have faith that we shall not
prove false to the memories of the men of the mighty past.
They did their work, they left us the splendid heritage we now
enjoy. We in our turn have an assured confidence that we
shall be able to leave this heritage unwasted and enlarged to
our children and our children's children. To do so we must show,
not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the
qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and
endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal,
which made great the men who founded this Republic in the
days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved
this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.
 

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