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Theodore Roosevelt
Inaugural Address
Saturday, March 4, 1905

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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