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Roosevelt on the Lutherans

Theodore Roosevelt’s public speeches in the early 1900s explored diverse topics for a variety of citizen constituencies. Some of his themes back then are less likely to be addressed by contemporary American presidents.  This week in 1905 provided one of those occasions – when TR spoke at Lutheran Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC.

Because of North Dakota and Minnesota’s robust historical settlement by Scandinavians associated with the Lutheran Church, TR’s address 115 years ago is of particular interest:

“The Lutheran Church came to the territory that is now the United States very shortly after first permanent settlements were made within our limits; for when the earliest settlers came to dwell around the mouth of the Delaware, they brought the Lutheran Church with them, and so with the earliest German settlers afterward.

From that day to this, the history of the growth in the population of this nation has consisted largely in some respects mainly the arrival of waves of newcomers to our shores; and the prime duty of those already in the land is to see that their own progress and development are shared by these newcomers.

It is a serious and dangerous thing for any man to tear loose from the soil, from the religion in which he and his forebearers have taken root and to be transplanted into a new land.  He should receive all the possible aid in the new land; and the aid can be tendered him most effectively by those who can appeal to him on the ground of spiritual kinship.

Therefore, the Lutheran Church can do most in helping upward and onward so many of the newcomers to our shores, and it seems to me that it should be, I am tempted to say, well-nigh the prime duty of this church to see that the immigrant, especially the immigrant of Lutheran faith from the Old World , whether he belonged to one of the Lutheran countries of Finland, or Hungary, or Austria , may be not suffered to drift off, with no friendly hand extended to him out of all the church communion, away from all the influences that tend toward safe-guarding him, and that he find ready at hand in this country those eager to bring him into fellowship with the existing bodies.”

Today’s Dakota Datebook was written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

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