But it’s Roosevelt’s July 4, 1886 speech, which many historians see as a harbinger of his later political ambitions, that most interests me. Here’s what he said:
I do not undervalue for a moment our material prosperity; like all Americans, I like big things; big prairies, big forests and mountains, big wheat-fields, railroads, — and herds of cattle, too, — big factories, steamboats, and everything else.
We must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever yet benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue. It is of more importance that we should show ourselves honest, brave, truthful, and intelligent, than that we should own all the railways and grain elevators in the world. We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.
What would Roosevelt have thought of Dickinson and the oil boom in the hills where he ran cattle and hunted? What’s happening here is big, no doubt about that. There are big trucks – a couple of hundred thousand last year. Big oil rigs. Big trailer parks. In Dickinson, there’s also a big McDonald’s.