These motivational quotes were derived from Teddy Roosevelt’s speeches, writings and interviews. Most of the quotes were sourced using The Works of Theodore Roosevelt in 14 volumes. Links to online sources are included below each image when available.

1. Never Stop Trying

“We have got but one life here, and what comes after it we cannot with certainty tell; but it pays, no matter what comes after it, to try and do things, to accomplish things in this life, and not merely to have a soft and pleasant time.”

2. Decide to be Great

“There is no more important component of character than steadfast resolution. The boy who is going to make a great man, or is going to count in any way in after life, must make up his mind not merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses and defeats.”

3. Be Willing to Risk It All

“No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well being, to risk his life, in a great cause. No nation has a right to a place in the world unless it has so trained its sons and daughters that they follow righteousness as the great goal. They must scorn to do injustice, and scorn to submit to injustice. They must endeavor steadily to make peace the handmaiden of righteousness, to secure both peace and righteousness. But they must stand ready, if the alternative is between peace and righteousness, unhesitatingly to face suffering and death in war rather than to submit to iniquity or dishonor.”

4. Tackle Problems Head On

“It is not difficult to be virtuous in a cloistered and negative way. Neither is it difficult to succeed, after a fashion, in active life, if one is content to disregard the considerations which bind honorable and upright men. But it is by no means easy to combine honest and efficiency; and yet it is absolutely necessary, in order to do any work really worth doing.

It is not hard, while sitting in one’s study, to devise admirable plans for the betterment of politics and of social conditions; but in practice it often proves very hard to make any such plan work at all, no matter how imperfectly, yet the effort must continually be made, under penalty of constant retrogression in our political life.

We feel that the doer is better than the critic and that the man who strives stands far above the man who stands aloof because of pessimism or because of sheer weakness. To borrow a simile from the football field, we believe that men must play fair, but that there must be no shirking and that success can only come to the player who ‘hits the line hard.'”

5. Talk Less

When asked how he got along so well as governor of the Philippines, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., replied: “I always had a great respect for a Philippine proverb: “Into the closed mouth the fly does not get.”

6. Only feel sorry for the lazy

“Your work is hard. Do you suppose I mention that because I pity you? No; not a bit. I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who doesn’t work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being. The law of worthy work well done is the law of successful American life. I believe in play, too – play, and play hard while you play; but don’t make the mistake of thinking that that is the main thing. The work is what counts, and if a man does his work well and it is worth doing, then it matters but little in which line that work is done; the man is a good American citizen. If he does his work in slip-shod fashion, then no matter what kind of work it is, he is a poor American citizen.”

7. Embrace Hard Work

“Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. No kind of life is worth leading if it is always an easy life. I know that your life is hard; I know that your work is hard; and hardest of all for those of you who have the highest trained consciences, and who therefore always feel how much you ought to do. I know your work is hard, and that is why I congratulate you with all my heart. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Source: Theodore Roosevelt, American Ideals in Education Speech, November 4, 1910
Read the Book: The Works of Theodore Roosevelt in 14 volumes

8. Take Action

“To sit home, read one’s favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men’s doing.”

Source: “The Higher Life of American Cities”, The Outlook (December 21, 1895), p. 1083

9. Stand United

“When the time of danger comes, all Americans, whatever their social standing, whatever their creed, whatever the training they have received, no matter from what section of the country they have come, stand together as men, as Americans, and are content to face the same fate and do the same duties because fundamentally they all alike have the common purpose to serve the glorious flag of their common country.”

Source: Address at Yale Alumni Dinner, The Oxford Club, Brooklyn, NY (March 3, 1899)
Image: Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton (CC BY 2.0)