Theodore Roosevelt was, in every respect, a true and great American. He faithfully served his country as a loyal citizen, dutiful soldier, and active President. His Fear God and Take Your Own Part is a stirring work infused with patriotic fervor; it is an appeal to his fellow Americans to recognize the great gifts bestowed by, and upon their country, and to preserve these blessings at all cost. A work of multitudinous inspiring quotes, Roosevelt’s passionate patriotism speaks for itself:
“Peace is not the end. Righteousness is the end.”
Roosevelt here makes an important distinction. Peace, however noble and worthy a goal, is not the ultimate good. Adhering to the just and straight path is the goal. Righteousness before God, before one’s duty and country, and before one’s fellow man, is the proper end of human political endeavors.
“The fundamental evil in this country is the lack of sufficiently general appreciation of the responsibility of citizenship.”
For Roosevelt, the proper response to the blessings of freedom was a wholehearted acceptance of duty – particularly military duty. Freedom is not free; furthermore, it entails sacrifice and responsibility. Such service ought not to be considered burdensome; rather, Roosevelt believed such service to be not only one’s duty as a citizen, but one’s honor as a man.
“If the people have not a vision, they shall surely perish.”
Reminiscent of Scripture, Roosevelt here illustrates the essential place of vision within man’s being. There must be a connection to the transcendent for man to truly better his condition on earth. Far from a false reality, this need for vision is important as a means of enlivening and sustaining peoples and nations through fair as well as difficult times.
“The United States has – and deserves to have – only one friend in the world. This is the United States.”
Roosevelt strongly maintained that the future of America was squarely in her own hands. Rather than casting about for others upon whom to deflect blame, he urged military strength and the confidence to assert power when required. The blessings wrought through freedom and democracy could indeed be lost, but only by those unwilling to preserve them.
“The democratic ideal must be that of subordinating chaos to order…the individual to the community…”
Democracy is not an arena for unlimited license; it is not a system in which man can retreat into himself; it is not a passive program of law. Democracy requires selflessness and character, courage and informed activity. The individual, though granted many liberties, is not the center of the universe; his will is not supreme. Roosevelt urges the cultivation of this ideal as a safeguard against the destructive power of the ego.
In our present age of widespread political toleration Roosevelt reminds us that it is indeed right and fitting to take pride our nation and to recognize America’s vast and various gifts, her rich heritage, and the integrity of her ideals. Roosevelt exhorts all Americans to examine their priorities and to take their part, to realize their heroic potential.
Unabashed, unapologetic, and unwavering, Roosevelt was not a man to dwell in the gray. For him the world was white and black. For him the world was simpler – not easier – but rather, more straightforward and clear. By banishing the political and moral entanglements engendered by relativity, perhaps we also might see the world more distinctly.
Fear God and take your own part!