Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Teddy Roosevelt

History is fun to teach.  As we look at events 100 years ago it is amazing how closely they parallel our own times (but taken a few steps further).  Teddy Roosevelt has so much to say about the strength of our nation.  His short essay Duty and Self Control is a good read for everyone.

He begins by reminding us that in the United States the people are sovereign - we are ultimately in charge.  To this end he explains

The man who is in danger of oppression from the sovereign can afford to think of his rights, first and foremost, but the man who is really sovereign, or the entity which is really sovereign, must think of its duties first. 

If "we the people" are sovereign then it is essential that we know our duties more than our rights. Knowing your duty used to be such a crucial part of education.  Honestly, as I read CM and she talked about duty I wasn't sure how to relate to that thought at first. Today it is almost laughable that you would teach something so "old fashioned".  As he explains though.  

The problem becomes apparent when "the people" are unwilling or unable to govern themselves. Roosevelt ends this essay reminding us 

Written over 100 years ago I think the sentiments might ring truer today. 

The other essay we read was The Square Deal which doesn't shirk from the topic of sectionalism (he was born before the Civil War).   Here are some of his thoughts from 1905

A healthy republican government must rest upon individuals, not upon classes or sections. As soon as it becomes government by a class or by a section, it departs from the old American ideal. 
In the history of mankind many republics have risen, have flourished for a less or greater time, and then have fallen because their citizens lost the power of governing themselves and thereby of governing their state; and in no way has this loss of power been so often and so clearly shown as in the tendency to turn the government into a government primarily for the benefit of one class instead of a government for the benefit of the people a a whole. 
The outcome was equally fatal, whether the country fell into the hands of the wealthy oligarchy which exploited the poor or whether it fell under the domination of a turbulent mob which plundered the rich.   
The death knell of the Republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.  
As much as I appreciate his political reflection, I think his encouragement to the average citizen is even more powerful.  While he was President he reminds people that

In case you are concerned that he isn't considering the key role of women he adds

He further discusses how this is on par with the work of lawgivers and soldiers - not second fiddle work.  He highlights these important roles soon after he pities the man with no burdens - because they have no chance for glory - they have no responsibility.  

What a different way to view the world.  What convicted me most was this thought

This is what I am praying for - strength and insight - to do my duty where I live.

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.  


  1. How do you feel when you read quotes like these, Missy? I am finding myself discouraged as I look out at our country, at my city and at myself. That all-important word DUTY, without which there is no such thing as democracy, seems all but lost. In the midst of that discourage and in the midst of Advent, I am praying for the Kingdom to come in a new way for us Americans.

  2. Sorry, I did not respond earlier. It is a bit disheartening as we look around our nation currently. I try to share this with my high school kids in hopes that they see a different way of understanding citizenship and their role in the world. This is why I love history though - we can have these conversations without getting caught up in current politics and see how these things develop over time. It also reminds me that traditionally the things that I do daily were considered honorable and valuable. This is also why I like CM because she talks often about duty instead of rights.