Theodore Roosevelt Essay: 'Duties of American Citizenship' Speech Analysis
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. wrote a famous speech on 'Duties of American Citizenship' long before he added the presidency to his resume. Yet, hardly can anyone argue that the views expressed in this address were closely followed by him while sitting in the Office. This sample shows how a student may approach studying and interpreting this rhetoric from a personal perspective.
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Analysis of the speech "Duties of American Citizenship"
The speech by Theodore Roosevelt, which explains what are the duties of an American citizen, is essential for creating awareness among the US people of the roles and responsibilities they have towards their country. Politics has always been considered to belong to a certain category of people, therefore, making many people not to want active participation in it. It was, in fact, considered by many American citizens evil that only those willing to compromise on their values can participate in. Roosevelt, however, insists on the fact that politics is part of every citizen, and those who shun it are mere pretenders who are not concerned about the welfare of the people. I found this speech so educative and wish that every American citizen would read it. The speech is one piece of writing that displays politics as a duty, which should concern every American citizen. It is unfortunate that many people tend to shun away from politics, yet they are the first to complain, especially when things are not working out well.
Apart from the right of voting and choosing a leader, every citizen has a right to influence the destiny of American politics in many ways. I loved the fact that Roosevelt mentioned that one does not need to hold a political position to influence the political climate of America. This implies that political leadership is not about political position but rather influencing people to make the right decisions for the leadership of the nation (Shklar 24). By this, Roosevelt implies that a person can influence change by their personal action of not accepting or giving bribes, praying for the well-being of the nation, supporting those in leadership positions, speaking out on poor governance and participating in the very responsibility of choosing leaders.
Some of the people who desire political power do not necessarily have the needs of the country at heart. They mainly seek for such positions to gratify their personal needs, which may not work for the good of the nation or even for their own good. If, for instance, a person wants political leadership simply because they want to gain control of a particular region or people, they will realize once they are on the seat that it is not that easy. As they will be busy pursuing their selfish needs, they will be encountered by other challenges, which will require their attention. However, since they were not passionate about such responsibilities, they wear off and, therefore, not being able to serve their people effectively. This in most cases leads to people complaining of mot being adequately represented, unequal development projects and claiming how a particular leader changed once they came into power.
It is a high time that people learn not to be moved by the seductions of aspiring political leaders who promise more than they can deliver. The fact is that a person who is passionate about change in their surroundings will not wait to have a political position. Even in their ordinary state, they will aspire to venture into smaller projects to empower the people. Every great and successful political leader started serving his people at their low level. They influenced change right from their college-level until they did not have to struggle to be in leadership. Just as Roosevelt, I dream of a land where a person will not have to campaign to convince people of his political prowess. We need to reach a place where, as a country, people recommend us unanimously to be leaders because we have shown such qualities.
We need to reach a point as a country where we are spoilt for choices when it comes to leadership. This should not be because we have been so much verbally lured but that the actions of individual people have proved to us that we have more capable people than we can imagine. This should not be based on their racial inclination, political parties, level of education or status in society. As a matter of fact, there are many good leaders within such diversified groups, yet we are so much tied to political parties and level of education that we never realize what we are missing (Roosevelt 5). Since we are people of diversified backgrounds and communities, we will definitely require such diversification in order to succeed as a country.
If, for instance, we say that we only need postgraduates to lead us, how will those who have acquired minimum education meant to relate with them? It should be noted that for people to feel well represented, a leader must have the ability to empathize with their situation and ultimately deliver them from it. An educated person may not be able to speak a language that the least educated person can speak. There will also be a clash of interests, creating a big gap. The same goes for the rich and the poor. Sometimes, some of the ambitions that political leaders have, which they require the participation of the people, may be quite ridiculous. A leader cannot, for example, venture into an expensive project among the poor people and expect them to fund it. This is because such people are struggling to put food on their table and may not necessarily have extra funds to find the project. It will, however, be reasonable if such a leader encouraged people to pull their resources together and think of ways of uplifting their living.
The reason why there is unequal development in the country even many years after independence is because of poor leadership strategies. Most of the leaders that are voted in mainly go in because they want power or want to fulfill personal goals. They may not even know what the needs of the people are and even if they know, it may not bother them much. They will instead focus on what brought them into leadership and forget why they were voted in. It is unfortunate that even after several frustrations that the people of America have been exposed to in terms of poor leadership, they still make the same mistakes by voting in the wrong people. They are deceived by properly coined manifestos, most of which are clearly ridiculous. The excitement they have on what they hear makes them fall victim to such bad leadership.
Another important highlight of the speech that I found intriguing was on those who claim that politics is some sought of the evil of which spiritual people are not supposed to engage in. Despite the fact that politics has its own ways of negatively influencing people, that is a personal decision that a person should never blame on politics. The need to walk contrary to one’s set principles emerges if the person was influenced by external rather than internal forces to join politics. Wherever there was pressure involved to pursue political power, a person is haunted by such influences to fulfill their personal needs. For instance, some people find themselves in positions of leadership simply because they were pushed in by people from their communities (Roosevelt 10). They even guarantee such a person the numbers that he or she will need to clinch the position. In such cases, the agenda of joining politics is not with such an individual person but rather with the people that pushed them into it.
Once they are there, they will also be forced to act according to their influence since they did not have specific agendas for the community. Surprisingly, most of the people that fall victim to such influences are people of high moral values. They get in thinking they are doing a favor to the people who influenced them into positions not realizing that it is a trap that has been set against them. They are hence intimidated and made to engage in evils just to please those who advised them to join politics. There are however few leaders who have stood the test of time since they knew why they pursue leadership positions. They do not allow the dirty side of politics to influence their principles and instead use their positions positively to impart their communities.
The fact is that politics never make a person bad. On the contrary, it is people who make politics to be bad. The influence and power that comes through politics make people desire to be its part. Compared to other careers that require particular abilities, anybody who knows how to twist his or her words and influence people by their speech can become a politician. Politics is one of the careers that directly engage people. Some people who do not have the necessary qualification to pursue a career or are in need of much money consider this an escape boat. Apart from few positions that require a person to have attained certain levels of education, some positions can be pursued by anybody that people feel has what it requires being a leader (Shklar 65). These are some of the considerations that have polluted politics.
Finally, what Teddy Roosevelt speech on citizenship points out is the fact that politics is not for a few selected people but for every person. A person should never be deceived to think that they are too irrelevant or unqualified to shape the political climate of the land. They do not have to wait for a political position to influence the people. After all, there is a lot of competition, especially by the wrong people who feel they have adequate support. The ordinary once may never get to shape the country if they have to wait for such positions. However, when a person knows what needs to be done then they will not have to wait for a specific position to do so. The change that is required by a nation lies with every person irrespective of his or her age, status or even level of education. One can start being a leader in their small environments, such as family, school or even their small group of friends. Once such strong leadership foundations are set, the country will not face a leadership deficit in the near future.
- Roosevelt, Theodore. "The Duties of American Citizenship." Address to the Liberal Club, Buffalo, NY, Jan 26.1893 (1967): 3-16.
- Shklar, Judith N. American citizenship: The quest for inclusion. Harvard University Press, 1991.