Theodore Roosevelt’s adherence to honesty was a golden strength of the 26th president. He held the attribute in his heart, actions, and his speeches. For “Old Four Eyes,” truth was a virtue for a cowpuncher, businessman and most certainly a politician.
TR famously fired a cowboy on the spot for burning in a maverick cow with the Roosevelt brand. “But, boss, I marked him with your brand,” the cowpoke explained. “A man who would steal for me would steal from me!” snapped the future president.
Here are three occasions in separate years that TR mentioned honesty:
“We firmly believe that the American people feel hostility to no man who has honestly won success. We firmly believe that the American people ask only justice, justice each for himself and justice each for all others. They are against wickedness in rich man and poor man alike. They wish to deal honestly and in good faith with all men. They recognize that the prime national need is for honesty, honesty in public life and in private life, honesty in business and in politics, honesty in the broadest and deepest significance of the word.
If you have not honesty in the average private citizen, in the average public servant, then all else goes for nothing. The abler a man is, the more dexterous, the shrewder, the bolder, why the more dangerous he is if he has not the root of right living and right thinking in him – and that in private life, and even more in public life.
It is, of course, not enough that a public official should be honest. No amount of honesty will avail if he is not also brave and wise. The weakling and the coward cannot be saved by honesty alone; but without honesty the brave and able man is merely a civic wild beast who should be hunted down by every lover of righteousness.”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.