Skip to main content

The Duties of Citizenship

Appointed to the Civil Service Commission by President Benjamin Harrison after returning to the east, Roosevelt took to his new position with the utmost enthusiasm. He fought against the systems of patronage and nepotism that dominated government appointments at the time, advocating strenuously for the selection of federal employees based on merit.

© The Library of Congress

In 1893, the young commissioner delivered a speech on his expectations of the American citizenry: to be engaged, vigilant, politically active, and above all, decent. "No man can be a good citizen who is not a good husband and a good father, who is not honest in his dealings with other men and women, faithful to his friends and fearless in the presence of his foes," Roosevelt famously proclaimed in this early speech.

The Rough Rider

Theodore Roosevelt was an eager volunteer in the Spanish-American War. His famous cavalry unit, the Rough Riders, fought with distinction in Cuba and earned Roosevelt the title of Colonel. He returned home to the United States a hero.

© The Library of Congress

TR at the Battery, 1910

© The Library of Congress

Roosevelt's Ascent

Upon his return from the war, Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York. Within just a few years, he'd be the chief executive of the United States. A year after his second term ended, TR gave his most enduring speech: Citizenship in the Republic. He famously declared that credit belongs to "the man in the Arena," who "tries valiantly," and "spends himself in a worthy cause."

© The Library of Congress

It is not the critic who counts...the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...

"Citizenship In A Republic"
Paris, France, April 23, 1910

Keep Exploring


Theodore Roosevelt is often considered the "conservationist president." In the North Dakota Badlands, Roosevelt is remembered with a national park that bears his name and honors the memory of the original conservationist.
Learn more


TR was a natural-born leader. Whether as police commissioner or President, TR always sought not only to participate in public life, but to lead, fuel progress, and create precedent. His blend of courage and compassion made him a model leader for his time and generations to come.
Learn more

The Project

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will show what we can learn from, not about, our 26th President. These are our values:
Learn more