Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Theodore Roosevelt: What Did He Say?

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Irwin Stelzer calls on John McCain to embrace his "Inner Teddy Roosevelt"--because "only a nation with a strong, growing economy is sufficiently self-confident to bear what TR called the "heavy responsibility" of projecting "the cause of free self-government throughout the world" and has the wherewithal to discharge that responsibility."

So it sounds like TR would be a democracy-promoter around the globe, right?

But reading Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address, which contains the line "the cause of free self-government throughout the world", and I am left with a different impression.

TR sounds a lot more like Ronald Reagan speaking at Fudan University in Shanghai--celebrating the American ideal, setting it forward as an EXAMPLE for other states, but not arguing that the U.S. must force change on other societies.

Here is the full quote: Upon the success of our experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn.

Notice the word "projecting" or some other variant is NOT there.

And TR, in the previous paragraph, had this to say about international relations: "Toward all other nations, large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights. But justice and generosity in a nation, as in an individual, count most when shown not by the weak but by the strong."

That TR leaned more toward the "America as a city on the hill to be emulated" than lining up with any sort of freedom crusade seems the case when one reads this:

"Now and then we hear the appeal to give such and such a nation self-government. ... You cannot give self-government to anybody. He has got to earn it for himself.

"You can give him the chance to obtain self-government, but he himself out of his own heart must do the governing. He must govern himself. That is what it means. That is what self-government means." ("Duty and Self-Control")

In the end, TR's guiding principle--and one we should embrace in this day even more so, when the economic problems we face are far greater is this:

"We in our turn have an assured confidence that we shall be able to leave this heritage unwasted and enlarged to our children and our children's children."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?