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Roosevelt's Inaugural Address

March 4th was Inauguration Day in the early 20th century, and on this date in 1901 Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as Vice President under William McKinley. Tragically, McKinley was shot six months into his second term and died eight days later. The stunned 42-year-old TR was sworn into office, becoming the youngest president in US history.

He ran for another term, and in 1905 became the first elected president in the 20th century. Four years later, also on March 4th, he left office as his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, took the oath of office.

From his inauguration address in 1904, the former Dakota ranchman delivered these words:

“There is no good reason why we should fear the future. But there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing to approach those problems with the unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright! Yet, after all, though the problems are new, though the tasks set before us differ from the tasks set before our fathers who founded and preserved this Republic, the spirit in which these tasks must be undertaken and these problems faced, if our duty is to be well done, remains essentially unchanged.”

In a later address, Roosevelt spoke of national unity.

“I ask you to strike the note that shall help our people. As a people we must be united. If we are not united, we shall slip into the gulf of measureless disaster. We must be strong in purpose for our own defense and bent on securing justice within our borders. If as a nation we are split into warring camps, if we teach our citizens not to look upon one another as brothers but as enemies divided by the hatred of creed for creed -or of those of one race against those of another race, surely, we shall fail and our great democratic experiment on this continent will go down in crushing overthrow.”

Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

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