Speech by President Theodore Roosevelt
- Manhattan, Kansas - May 2, 1903
My fellow citizens:
In going through Kansas one cannot but be struck not merely by the marvelous fertility of your state, but by the way in which your people are building upon your foundation of material prosperity the structure of the higher moral and intellectual life. Yesterday I passed through the historic town of Lawrence, the seat of your university, which has numbered so many men of mark among its graduates; the seat of Haskell Indian School, the existence of which makes a long credit mark on the side of the white race on the balance sheet of its dealings with the red race, a balance sheet which otherwise has many debit marks on it. Now I come to this city, the seat of one of those agricultural colleges which have done so much for the education of that class of our people upon whom more than any other ultimately the entire national well-being rests-those devoted to the tilling of the soil, raising crops and live stock. Until within the lifetime of the present generation but little effort was made to bring the education of the farmer up to the high standard toward which we were endeavoring to bring so many other professions. That has now been changed. Nothing is more striking in our educational system of today than the number of institutions in which the work of the farmer is taught in a way that makes farming in its highest form one of the learned professions.
I am speaking in one of the great agricultural districts of the country, and as I have gone through it this morning, exactly as I went through the district of the lower Kaw yesterday afternoon, I have been lost in ceaseless admiration of its beauty and fertility, and it is eminently fitting that here there should be one of those institutions which train the man who is to till the soil, the man who is ultimately to control the destiny of the nation more than any other, more even than the wage worker. Train him not only to wield aright the implements ready to his hand, but train him how to render the highest service of citizenship to the state.
I want to congratulate this cadet corps. I like to see such corps always. Our people work for themselves, and if need comes are to be able to take care of themselves in actual war. Kansas is full of the men who fought in the great war, and when in 1898 the appeal to arms came Kansas farms and Kansas Colleges sent forth ten-fold the number of men that were asked for by Uncle Sam; ten times as many wished to get into the volunteer service as there was room for in the volunteer service; and in the Philippines it was given to Kansas to produce one of those men who made marked reputations in the war, in the person of General Funston; and in the 20th Kansas you had one of the regiments which had the good luck to have opportunity, and then the power to take advantage of the opportunity, for you have got to have both, the opportunity and then the power to take advantage of it. It was for the good fortune of the 20th Kansas that it had that power.
Compared with the struggle which you, my comrades in the great war had, ours was a mighty small one: All that can be said is that we hope we showed we had the right spirit in us, the desire to emulate your deeds. (Applause)
I want to say a word especially to the students. It is always a pleasure to be greeted by the student body. You go out into the great world with a peculiar weight of responsibility upon you, because it largely depends upon how you handle yourselves as to the esteem in which education will be held by the community at large. If you make the privileges you have serve as an excuse for not working as hard, not doing as good as work, not getting down to the ground and working up, you will merely discredit yourselves, but you will discredit those who have not had your advantages. If, however, instead you feel that they have made an added burden of responsibility, that they made it more incumbent upon you to show that you profit by the advantages you have had, then you will reflect credit not merely upon yourself, but upon those who founded and keep up institutions of learning, such as this.
There is one bit of advice I like to give to the young and to the old. I believe in play and I believe in work. When you play, play hard, and when you work, do not play at all. I believe in having a good time. Get all the enjoyment you can, but do not let getting the enjoyment interfere with your duty, with your work in the world. The best workers that I have ever known were men who knew how to play when the chance came, and the poorest creatures I have ever known anywhere, and the most miserable, were those who had the theory that life consisted merely of play. I pity no man because he has to work. I respect him, and I despise the man who does not work. (Applause.) We have no place in our American society for the man or the woman who fails to appreciate the need of effort, the need of work to justify his or her existence. If a man is removed from the need of laboring each day for his daily bread, that means that he is set free to do work of a different kind if he has got the stuff in him to enable him to do it. Of all people whom I most pity, it is the children whom the misguided father or mother brings up not to work but to try to have an easy time in life. (Applause)