On April 23, 1910, former United States president Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic.” Now, a century later, many aspects of this speech remain relevant, especially for the Zoon Garden mission led by author Jordan O’Donnell.
“This speech is, in my opinion, one of the key texts we need to return to as a society to realign the principles that should govern our republic,” says O’Donnell. “There are certain aspects that are antiquated such as the continual emphasis on child-rearing, but many of the lessons in the speech are vital to the preservation of our nation.”
What follows are several such lessons – handpicked by O’Donnell himself.
1. “The main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore, it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average can not be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.”
2. “In the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average woman, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional crises which call for the heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed.”
3. “The power of the journalist is great, but he is entitled neither to respect nor admiration because of that power unless it is used aright. He can do, and he often does, great good. He can do, and he often does, infinite mischief. All journalists, all writers, for the very reason that they appreciate the vast possibilities of their profession, should bear testimony against those who deeply discredit it.”
Another issue Roosevelt delves into is the idea of self-mastery – which ties neatly into the concern of expanding the compassion of the average citizen. “I think one of our greatest problems is that we long ago moved from a people of self-mastery to a people who are mastered by practically everything,” says O’Donnell. In other words, rather than mastering our surroundings, we allow our surroundings – often in the form of technology, media, and hegemonic ideals – to master us.
In order to improve our nation as a whole, it is essential that we evaluate ourselves – that we point our fingers not only at one another, but at ourselves, and work to rebuild a nation of unity, trust, and self-mastery. Check out O'Donnell's book for more info on this, and check out our tour itinerary to catch the Team as they tour a city near you!