Theodore Roosevelt’s first important speech in North Dakota was before a teaming assembly of citizens in Jamestown in the blazing summer, anxious for their adopted Western son to speak glowingly of Wild West values.
They were not disappointed, even with the faulty timber of the main speaker’s narration. TR charged forward with enthusiastic fervor in the open air. He reminded the folks of the tough environment that they all knew too well.
“It always seems to me that those who dwell in a new territory, and whose actions, therefore, are peculiarly fruitful, for good and for bad alike, in shaping the future, have in consequence, peculiar responsibilities. You have already been told, very truthfully and effectively of the great gifts and blessings you enjoy and we all of us feel, most rightly and properly, that we belong to the greatest nation that has ever existed on this earth – a feeling I like to see, for I wish every American always to keep the most intense pride in his country, and people. But, as you already know your rights and privileges so well, I am going to ask you to excuse me if I say a few words to you about your duties. Much has been given to us, and much will be expected of us and we must take heed to use aright the gifts entrusted tour care…
We, grangers and cowboys alike, have opened a new land; and we are the pioneers, and as we shape the course of the stream near its head, our efforts have infinitely more effect, in bending it in any given direction, than they would have if they were made farther along. In other words, the first comers in a land can, by their individual efforts, do far more to channel out the course in which its history is to run than can those who come after them; and their labors, whether exercised on the side of evil or on the side of good are far more effective than if they had remained in old settled communities.”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.