Discovering ancient truisms

Published 7:42 pm Friday, June 17, 2011

It’s fun to discover something from an archive written nearly 100 years ago, which could have historical implications today.

No, we are not talking about frivolous Biblical prophecies, chicken-little sky is falling stuff, but observations of current events then that ring true today.

It came from one of those almost free Kindle books, 89 cents to be exact, no shipping and handling charges, the Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt.

Email newsletter signup

I have read several biographies on Mr. Roosevelt, and find him an inspiring character, a man of huge energy, ambition, love of family and country, and particularly a great love for the family home he built on Long Island called Sagamore Hill.

I have been to the home on Sagamore Hill. It clearly is a man’s house, a house for a man and his huge, equally energized family. In later years, Roosevelt added a large room onto the house—a man-cave by today’s definitions—a place for his hunting trophies, his books and gatherings for meetings of men discussing his presidency, policies for the country and particularly brokering a peaceful conclusion of the war between Japan and Russia.

It is here too that the family laments the loss of their son, Quenton, killed in action during the first world war.

It is here at Sagamore Hill in October of 1913, after his presidency expired, that Roosevelt laments:

“We of the great modern democracies must strive unceasingly to make our several countries lands in which a poor man who works hard can live comfortably and honestly, and in which a rich man cannot live dishonestly nor in slothful avoidance of duty;

“…and yet we must judge rich man and poor man alike by a standard which rests on conduct and not on caste, and we must frown with the same stern severity on the mean and vicious envy which hates and would plunder a man because he is well off and on the brutal and selfish arrogance which looks down on and exploits the man with whom life has gone hard.”

“We must exercise the largest charity towards the wrongdoer that is compatible with relentless war against the wrongdoing. We must be just to others, generous to others, and yet we must realize that it is a shameful and wicked thing not to withstand oppression with high heart and ready hand

“With gentleness and tenderness there must go dauntless bravery and grim acceptance of labor and hardship and peril.

“All for each, and each for all, is a good motto; but only on condition that each works with might and main to so maintain himself as not to be a burden to others.”

Roosevelt was a Republican as was his father. As a Republican, one might compare him to those Republican candidates today seeking the office of the presidency. He was a writer of 26 books and more than a thousand magazine articles. He was a historian, a naturalist, a biographer, a statesman, hunter and orator. He was considered to be the first of the modern presidents, expanding the power and influence of his office.

Considering the partisan rhetoric of today, one might consider what he said as president in 1905:

“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.”

Comment on this and other articles by Jim Smith at his website: or at his email at