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President Theodore Roosevelt Responds to Praise of His Georgetown Commencement Speech
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According to my lights I endeavor to live up to what I there said, and all I hope is that I have been measurably successful!

THEODORE ROOSEVELT. Typed Letter Signed, to Elbert Henry Gary, June 27, 1906, Washington, D.C. On “The White House” letterhead. 1 p., 7-1/8 x 8-7/8 in.

Inventory #26174.03       Price: $750

Complete Transcript

The White House.

                                                                        June 27, 1906.

My dear Judge Gary:

            I am glad you liked the Georgetown speech and I appreciate your letter about it. According to my lights I endeavor to live up to what I there said, and all I hope is that I have been measurably successful!

            With great regard and many thanks, believe me,

                                                                        Sincerely yours,
                                                                       Theodore Roosevelt

Hon. E. H. Gary,
71 Broadway, / New York.

Historical Background
On June 14, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a commencement address at Georgetown College. The theme of his remarks was “character,” calling it “all important, from the standpoint of the state, for the man who attains a worldly success, without character and patriotism as its foundation, is a curse to society rather than a benefit.” “Intelligent and educated men,” Roosevelt continued, “working in unselfish devotion to the cause of good government, are the hope of the future.” He urged the graduates to “wage war relentlessly on every man of wealth who commits a crime, but remember you do the greatest possible harm if you so instruct and lead the people that they come to condemn wealth rather than crooked wealth. The demagogue who reeks with envy and malice is possessed by the same evil instincts as the rich man who is the personification of arrogance and cruelty.”[1]

On June 22, E. H. Gary, the President and Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel, wrote to President Roosevelt’s secretary William Loeb Jr., “If you have copies of the President’s last public address I will be thankful for one.... The excerpts which I read in the newspapers I enjoyed and admired.” Four days later, Gary wrote directly to Roosevelt that he had read Roosevelt’s speech “with pleasure and benefit.” Gary assured Roosevelt that “as your actions have always been controlled by the principle clearly stated in your last public speech you will ultimately and permanently receive the universal credit and fame to which you are entitled.” He quoted a line from Roosevelt’s speech, “The real test is honesty as against dishonesty,” and drew the lesson, “I hope all of us connected with the management of large business interests will profit by the teachings of our President.” He also spoke more directly for U.S. Steel: “I have no disposition [to] try to place our Corporation on a pedestal; but we must and will listen to good advice and heed it. We must try to get right and keep right.”

President Roosevelt responded to Gary’s praise with this letter, expressing the hope that “I endeavor to live up to what I there said, and all I hope is that I have been measurably successful!

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was born in New York City, graduated from Harvard University in 1880, and attended Columbia Law School. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1882 to 1884, and as president of the New York City Police Commissioners in 1895 and 1896, then as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1897 to 1898. After service in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, he won election as Governor of New York and served from 1899 to 1900. He ran as Vice President to William McKinley in 1900 and became President in September 1901, when McKinley was assassinated. Reelected in 1904, Roosevelt was President until 1909. A prolific author and naturalist, Roosevelt was instrumental in the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, helped preserve the nation’s natural resources, and extended American power throughout the world with a focus on a modern navy. In 1912, he again sought the Republican nomination for President, but when the convention chose incumbent William Howard Taft, Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party and outpolled Taft in the general election. The Republican division allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency.

Elbert Henry Gary (1846-1927) was born in Illinois and graduated first in his class from the Union College of Law (Northwestern University School of Law) in 1868. He began to practice law in Chicago in 1871 and also co-founded a bank with his uncle. He served as a county judge from 1882 to 1890, and as mayor of Wheaton, Illinois, in the 1890s. He served as president of the Chicago Bar Association in 1893-94. In 1898, he became president of the Federal Steel Corporation in Chicago and retired from the practice of law. Two years later, Gary moved to New York City, where he and J. P. Morgan collaborated to found the U.S. Steel Corporation. Gary served as chairman of the board of America’s first billion-dollar corporation from 1901 until his death and as president from 1903 to 1911. In 1904, Gary offered President Theodore Roosevelt a deal. U.S. Steel would open its books to the Bureau of Corporations, but if the Bureau found evidence of wrongdoing, it would warn the corporation privately and give it an opportunity to remedy the situation. Roosevelt accepted the “gentlemen’s agreement.”

[1] The Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), June 14, 1906, 1:1, 8:1.

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