On September 2, 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech titled “National Duties” to 10,000 people at the Grandstand of the Minnesota State Fair. The speech was the first time Roosevelt used his famous line, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” in a public address. Four days after Roosevelt spoke at the fair, President McKinley was shot by an assassin in Buffalo, N.Y. Theodore Roosevelt would become the youngest U.S. president in history at the age of 42.
Here is an excerpt from Roosevelt’s speech at the Minnesota State Fair. ”A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far,’. If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble; and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power.”The full “National Duties” speech can be read at here.
Photo of Theodore Roosevelt reviewing National Guard troops at the Minnesota State Fair in 1901 courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.