Theodore Roosevelt Quotes


Laurel King, Contributor

| updated

Copy Link Code

theodore quotesWhen looking for a Theodore Roosevelt quote, be sure to narrow your search to a specific subject or time period. Because there is such a vast number of quotes from Theodore Roosevelt, choosing what source you want to use (i.e. book, newspaper article, or speech) can also help.

A list of famous quotes from Theodore Roosevelt would not be complete without the infamous 'big stick' quote. Originally mentioned in a letter the year before, the phrase, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far" remains a defining moment in his career. Uttered during a speech at the Minnesota State Fair (given on September 2, 1901) it became the penultimate definition of his foreign policy theory. His idea was that it was vital to negotiate peacefully (speak softly), while still reserving the threat of military force (big stick) if there was noncompliance. At first, he claimed it was a West African proverb, but it was later found to be his, alone.

Another oft-repeated quote from Teddy came on the campaign trail for his attempted re-election. On October 14, 1912, while he was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was shot in the chest while getting into a car outside his hotel (Hotel Gilpatrick) around 8:00 p.m. The intended assassin was John Schrank, who was an unemployed saloon keeper from New York. At his trial, Schrank claimed he was told to kill Roosevelt in a dream. In his dream, deceased President McKinley (whose assassination 11 years earlier had led to Teddy becoming president) sat up in his coffin, pointed at a man who looked like Roosevelt, and told Schrank to 'avenge' his death by killing the man responsible. Later, Schrank was found to be mentally incompetent, and spent the remainder of his life in an asylum. Minutes after the attempt, Teddy decided to give his speech anyway – because the bullet did not penetrate far enough to damage his lung – and began by telling the crowd "It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!" This quote led to him being drawn with numerous moose in political cartoons, as well as a nickname for his newly-formed branch of the Republican Party. Formally, it was called the 'Progressive Party', but the press nicknamed it the 'Bull Moose Party'; the name stuck.

Some other favorite President Theodore Roosevelt quotes include:

"It is not the critic who counts...the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...because there is no effort without error or shortcoming." – Man in the Arena, 1910

"A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards." – The Square Deal, 1903

A few Theodore Roosevelt hunting quotes:

"There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to 'mean' horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid." – An Autobiography, 1913

"A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user."

"I want to see you shoot the way you shout."