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The Dickinson Dakota Territory Speech

Theodore Roosevelt’s first opportunity to personally express much of his passion for our nation, as well as Dakota Territory’s gift of healing grace, was in 1886. TR was the featured speaker at Dickinson’s first full-on Independence Day celebration.

A heat wave soaked the region and temperatures rose to 125, but the despite the stifling heat, the event still boasted picnics, patriotism, parades, and Stark County’s largest-ever crowd.

TR took to the plain podium in the blistering air and addressed the assembled.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow citizens of Dakota. I have had the pleasure of coming to Dickinson but once before. I am peculiarly glad to have the opportunity of addressing you my fellow citizens of Dakota on the Fourth of July, because it always seems to me to that those who dwell in a new territory and whose actions are particularly fruitful in shaping the future of the land, have peculiar responsibilities. Much has been given to us and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have rights but we have correlative duties; none can escape them. We only have the right to life as free men so long as we show ourselves worthy of the privileges that we enjoy. If you fail to work in public life, as well as in private, for honesty, and uprightness and virtue; if you condone vice because the vicious man is smart; or if you cast your weight upon the scales in favor of evil, you are just so far corrupting and making less valuable the birthright of your children. We must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever yet benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue. We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people has ever received and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune. I am proud indeed to be considered one of yourselves!”

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

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