Speak Softly: 11 Teddy Roosevelt Quotes That Inspire

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt. Jr | Cornell University Library

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Jr. was the 26th president of the United States. Serving from 1901 to 1909, he lived a vigorous lifestyle and his presidency was defined by a rugged individuality and reform. His combination of masculinity and defiance created a near perfect breeding pond for memorable Teddy Roosevelt quotes that endure to this day. While other presidents have uttered memorable quotes, several Theodore Roosevelt quotes have melded themselves into the American psyche as you will see as you read through our list of his most memorable quips.

Born in 1858, Roosevelt suffered from asthma that often left him bedridden or confined to the indoors. He adopted a rigorous lifestyle and tackled his illness head-on with determination and ferocity after finding that exercise lessened the frequency and severity of his asthma attacks, he began boxing by the time he was twelve years old. His interests did not stop with the physical. He was very intelligent and an avid researcher. His main interests were zoology and military history.

After graduating from Harvard, Teddy Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Assembly. He immediately made his reformist leanings known by investigating corporate corruption. During his three terms in the state assembly, Teddy served as Republican party leader and Chairman of the Committee on Affairs of Cities. He left the state assembly in 1884 following the deaths of his mother, Martha, and first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, to try his hand at being a cowboy in North Dakota.

While in North Dakota, Roosevelt became a deputy sheriff. In that role he pursued and captured several criminals, adding to his reputation as a hard-bitten outdoorsman. Roosevelt returned to pubic life in 1886 in various roles in New York. It wasn’t until 1897 that he stepped into a national role as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In that role he stumped for the build up of the Navy, the construction of large battleships, and the removal of Spain from Cuba. After the U.S.S. Maine exploded in the port of Havana, Cuba and the declaration of war against Spain, Roosevelt resigned his post with the government, returning to his role as a captain in the New York National Guard.

After war was declared in April 1898, Roosevelt and Colonel Leonard Wood formed the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, also known as the “Rough Riders”, to fight in Cuba. Promoted to Lt. Colonel, Roosevelt secured the best arms for his men and set sail for the battle. He was promoted to Colonel while in Cuba and led his men during several battles.

Theodore Roosevelt became president on September 14, 1901 following the assassination of President McKinley. He left an indelible mark in American history throughout not just his presidency, but his whole life, leaving the world with many practical, inspirational, and motivational quotes. Read on for eleven Theodore Roosevelt quotes that you may be able to integrate into your daily life.

1. “Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

Black and white picture of Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt | Library of Congress

2. “To sit home, read one’s favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men’s doing.”

Black and white photograph of Theodore Roosevelt while campaigning.

Teddy Roosevelt campaigning | Library of Congress

3. “I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.”

Theodore Roosevelt speaking to a large crowd

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. on the campaign trail | Harvard College Library

4. “We must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.”

Statue of Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt statue | Foter.com

5. “I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope — the door of opportunity — is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color. Such an attitude would, according to my convictions, be fundamentally wrong.”

Black and white photo of Teddy Roosevelt in Yonkers

Teddy Roosevelt in Yonkers | Library of Congress

6. “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Teddy Roosevelt in a crowd

Teddy Roosevelt in a crowd | Foter.com

7. “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.”

Teddy Roosevelt on horseback.

Teddy Roosevelt on horseback | Foter.com

8. “Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. sits atop a horse

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. sits atop a horse | Foter.com

9. “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in that gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore

Mount Rushmore | Foter.com

10. “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Teddy Roosevelt campaigns from a train.

Teddy Roosevelt | Library of Congress

11. “The exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis.”

A caricature of Teddy Roosevelt

A caricature of Teddy Roosevelt | History.com

He later paraphrased that as, “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”