Quote of the Day – Theodore Roosevelt

January 25, 2007 at 10:11 am | Posted in American politics | 6 Comments

Theodore Roosevelt – op-ed in “Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star”, 149 May 7, 1918

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.”


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  1. A few more on my favorite quotes on the subject of speaking truth to power:

    “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.”
    (Proverbs 31:8)
    “During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.” – Howard Thurman

    From Mark Twain:

    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

    It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

    The citizen who sees his society’s democratic clothes being worn out and does not cry out is not a patriot but a traitor.

    * The loud little handful will shout for war. The pulpit will warily and cautiously protest at first…The great mass of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes, and will try to make out why there should be a war, and they will say earnestly and indignantly: “It is unjust and dishonorable and there is no need for war.” Then the few will shout even louder…Before long you will see a curious thing: anti-war speakers will be stoned from the platform, and free speech will be strangled by hordes of furious men who still agree with the speakers but dare not admit it … Next, statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.

    More from Voltaire:

    In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    “Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure… Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.” – From pamphlets written by the “White Rose”student resistance group at the University of Munich, 1942.

  2. Erich,

    Thanks for commenting.

    It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.

    This one really stands out for me. I’ve debated with several very conservative people who easily justify dehumanizing other individuals, who press “peace through strength,” and who glorify the warrior, the soldier, the god they worship for their defense. I find it surprising, actually.

  3. I wonder if Iraqis should be free to do the same?

  4. James,

    To do the same…what? To speak out against their leaders in times of war? Sure, why not?

  5. I agree. Iraqis should be able to speak out against their leaders in times of war unlike 5 years ago.

  6. Right.

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