Theodore Roosevelt on the Presidency

Jan 16, 2019

Like all presidents before and after his time in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt weathered both ardent supporters and equally opinionated detractors in the public and the press – yet TR emerged from his duties as chief executive saying no one had ever enjoyed being president as much as he did. 

Despite the criticisms and his tussles with newspapers, he maintained a firm conviction about the American citizen’s role, and even duty, in evaluating presidential performance.

I have done the best that is in me. There are few harder tasks than that of filling well and ably the office of President of the United States. The labor is immense, the ceaseless worry and ceaseless anxiety are beyond description.

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right.  Any other attitude as an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally reprehensible to the American public.

Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else, but it is more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

Our duty is entirely to the United States. It is due to the President only and exactly to the degree in which he serves the United States. It is our duty to support him when he serves the United States well. It is our duty to oppose him when he serves it badly.

I believe he should be sharply watched by the people, held to a strict accountability by them, and that he should not keep the office too long.

Dakota Datebook written and performed by Steve Stark, and funded by The Theodore Roosevelt Foundation