Theodore Roosevelt

Presidential Address at the Grand Canyon

 Delivered 6 May 1903, Flagstaff, Arizona

President Theodore Roosevelt delivering a speech at the Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona. Photo: Doris A. and Lawrence H. Budner Theodore Roosevelt Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Original Newspaper Report Containing the Speech


Mr. Governor, and you my fellow citizens, my fellow Americans, men and women of Arizona:

I am glad to be in Arizona today. It was from Arizona that so many gallant men came into the regiment which I had the honor to command. Arizona sent men who won glory on hard-fought fields, and men to whom came a glorious and an honorable death fighting for the flag of their country, and as long as I live it will be to me an inspiration to have served with Buck[ey] O'Neill.

I have met so many comrades whom I prize for whom I feel only respect and admiration, and I shall not particularize among them except to say that there is no one for whom I feel more of respect than for your governor. I remember when I first joined the regiment that all of us were new to one another, but as soon as I saw the colonel (he was then major) I made up my mind I could tie to him.

It is a pleasure to be in Arizona. I have never been in it before. Arizona is one of the regions from which I expect most development through the wise action of the national Congress in passing the irrigation Act.

The first and biggest experiment now in view under that Act is the one that we are trying in Arizona. I look forward to the effects of irrigation partly as applied through the government, still more as applied by individuals, and especially by associations of individuals, profiting by the example of the government and possibly by help from it -- I look forward to the effects of irrigation as being of greater consequence to all this region of country in the next 50 years than any other movement whatsoever. I think that irrigation counts for more toward the achieving of the permanent good results for the community.

I shall not try to greet in particular the members of my regiment now. I shall see them at half past five in my car. I have come here to see the Grand Canyon of Arizona, because in that canyon Arizona has a natural wonder, which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.

I shall not attempt to describe it, because I cannot. I could not choose words that would convey or that could convey to any outsider what that canyon is. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country: to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.

I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. Man cannot improve on it; not a bit. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children and your children's children and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American, if he can travel at all, should see.

Keep the Grand Canyon of Arizona as it is. We have gotten past the stage, my fellow citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we simply treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation. Whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery, whatever it is, handle it so that your children's children will get the benefit of it. Handle it that way.

If irrigation, apply it under circumstances that will make it of benefit, not to the speculators to get profit out of it for two or three years, but handle it so that it will be of use to the homemaker; to the man who comes to live here and to have his children stay after him; handle it so as to be of use to him and those who come after him. Keep the forests in the same way. Preserve them for that use, but use them so that they will not be squandered; will not be wasted; so that they will be of benefit to the Arizona of 1952 as well as the Arizona of 1903.

I want to say a word of welcome to the Indians here. In my regiment I had a good many Indians. They were good enough to fight and to die, and they are good enough to have me treat them exactly as square as any white man. There are a good many problems in connection with the Indians. You have got to save them from corruption, save them from brutality, and I regret to say that at times we have to save them from the unregulated Eastern philanthropist, because in everything we have to remember that although perhaps the worst quality in which to approach any question is hardness of heart, I do not know that it does so much damage as selfishness of head.

All I ask is a square deal for every man. Give him a fair chance; do not let him wrong anyone, and do not let him be wronged. Help as far as you can, without hurting in helping him, for the only way to help a man in the end is to help a man to help himself.

Never forget that you have to have two sets of qualities; the qualities that we include under the names of decency, honesty, morality, that make a man a decent husband, a good father, a good neighbor, fair and square in his dealings with all men, and in his dealings with the state; and then, furthermore, the qualities that have to be shown by every man who is to do his work in the world. Virtue is good, but the virtue that sits at home in its own parlor and talks about how bad the world is never did anything and never will. I want to see the qualities that the men of '61 to '65 had, my comrades. You had to have a man patriotic in those days, but it did not make any difference how patriotic he was, if he did not fight he was no good.

So it is with citizenship. I want to see decency and then I want to see the hardy virtues; the virtues we speak of when we describe anyone as a good man.

I am glad to see you today. I wish you well with all my heart. I know that your future will justify all the hopes we have.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Original Text Source:

Original Image Source: via the Doris A. and Lawrence H. Budner Theodore Roosevelt Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Transcript Note: There are several editions of this speech, including a more or less "official" version. The transcript above apparently was rendered by hand upon delivery by a reporter for The Coconino Sun (Flagstaff, Arizona), May 9, 1903, p. 1. For a discussion on discrepancies between and among various transcript versions see:

Page Updated: 5/15/23

U.S. Copyright Status: Text  = Public domain. Image = No known restrictions according to this Wikimedia citation
































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