Challenging Quotes From Teddy Roosevelt

In the past week Norma Jean and I have traveled from the Smoky Mountains to North Dakota. We’re on the way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. And then to Glacier National Park. There we will wait to see if and when the US-Canadian border opens.

We spent last night in Medora, just outside Theodore Roosevelt National Park. And plan to tour it today.

While I claim no special historical expertise about our 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt, his life has intrigued me. TR, as he was often called, was a statesman, conservationist, naturalist, and writer. He served in the military and his regiment was dubbed by the press as “the rough riders.”

Through the years, I’ve used several quotes by Roosevelt speaking to issues of personal responsibility, self-reliance, and moral accountability. Here are a few you might enjoy and appreciate, having to do with character and virtue.

On virtue and success in life:“ There are many qualities which we need in order to gain success, but the three above all—for the lack of which no brilliancy and no genius can atone—are Courage, Honesty and Common Sense.”

On character: “Bodily vigor is good, and vigor of intellect is even better, but far above both is character.”

On morality: “To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

On effort: “A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage. . .For us is 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.”

On perseverance: “Sometimes in life, both at school and afterwards, fortune will go against anyone, but if he just keeps pegging away and don’t lose his courage things always take a turn for the better in the end.”

On everyday virtue: “(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.”

On self-mastery: “Unless a man is master of his soul, all other kinds of mastery amount to little.”

On dealing with problems: “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

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

On devotion to a worthy cause: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them 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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who 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 least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

On Bible knowledge: “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”

On Thankfulness: “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 the gratitude to the Giver of good who has blessed us.”

Roosevelt’s words, backed up by his actions, sound quite a bit different than most political leaders today. We will never return to the kind of America that TR lived in. But we can individually pursue the ideals he espoused based on Biblical virtues and values.

This closing quote, is worthy of serious reflection by preachers, pastors, parents and all Christians. “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Life

4 responses to “Challenging Quotes From Teddy Roosevelt

  1. Ken Green

    Great quotes. I agree that Teddy Roosevelt was one of the most engaging characters of our history. Peggy and I made a trip out there a couple of years ago. We had no plans to visit the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but on the way back to Rapid City to fly back home we saw the signs and stopped. It was a highlight of our trip.


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  3. Philip North

    Good article, Brother Ken! As coincidence in life sometimes goes, T. R.’s birthay and mine are the same, and exactly 90 years apart. I attended Roosevelt High in St. Louis where I was born. The school was named after him. He is one of my favorite Presidents. He truly had what my late father would call, “a head full of sense.”


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