Yesterday was the centennial anniversary of the death of Theodore Roosevelt. There are many areas of policy and politics where those of us at the Acton Institute would differ with America’s 26th president. But we share his commitment to virtue and character, and its importance for both individual flourishing and for public life.
In honor of this anniversary, here are six quotes by Roosevelt on those 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 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: “[W]e 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.”