Analysis of the speech “Duties of American Citizenship
Speech by Theodore Roosevelt
The speech by Theodore Roosevelt is important in creating awareness among the American citizens on the roles
and responsibilities they have towards their country. Politics has always been considered to belong to a certain
category of people and therefore making many people not to want its active participation. It is in fact considered
by many American citizens to be an evil that only those willing to compromise on their values can participate in.
Roosevelt however insists on the fact that politics is part of every citizen and those who shun it are mere
pretenders who are not concerned about the welfare of the people. I found this speech so educative and wish that
every American citizen would read it. The speech is one piece of writing that displays politics as a duty, which
should concern every American citizen. It is unfortunate that many people tend to shun away from politics yet they
are the first to complain especially when things are not working out well.
Apart from the right of voting and choosing a leader, every citizen has a right to influence the destiny of
American politics in many ways. I loved the fact that Roosevelt mentioned that one does not need to hold a
political position to influence the political climate of America. This implies that political leadership is
not about political position but rather influencing people to make the right decisions for the leadership of
the nation (Shklar 24). By this, Roosevelt implies that a person can influence change by their personal action
of not accepting or giving bribes, praying for the well being of the nation, supporting those in leadership
positions, speaking out on poor governance and participating in the very responsibility of choosing leaders.
Some of the people who desire political power do not necessarily have the needs of the country at heart. They
mainly seek for such positions to gratify their personal needs, which may not work for the good of the nation
or even for their own good. If for instance a person wants political leadership simply because they want to
gain control of a certain region or people, they will realise once they are on the seat that it is not that
easy. As they will be busy pursuing their selfish needs, they will be encountered by other challenges, which
will require their attention. However, since they were not passionate about such responsibilities, they wear
off and therefore not being able to serve their people effectively. This in most cases leads to people complaining
of mot being adequately represented, unequal development projects and claiming how a particular leader changed once
they came into power.
It is a high time that people learn not to be moved by the seductions of aspiring political leaders who promise
more than they can deliver. The fact is that a person who is passionate about change in their surrounding will
not wait to have a political position. Even in their ordinary state, they will aspire to venture into smaller
projects to empower the people. Every great and successful political leader started serving his people at their
small level. They influenced change right from their college level until they did not have to struggle to be in
leadership. Just as Roosevelt, I dream of a land where a person will not have to campaign to convince people of
his political prowess. We need to reach a place where as a country, people recommend us unanimously to be leaders
because we have shown such qualities.
We need to reach a point as a country where we are spoilt for choices when it comes to leadership. This is should
not be because we have been so much verbearly lured but that the actions of individual people have proved to us that
we have more capable people than we can imagine. This should not be based on their racial inclination, political
parties, level of education or status in society. As a matter of fact, there are many good leaders within such
diversified groups yet we are so much tied to political parties and level of education that we never realise what we
are missing (Roosevelt 5). Since we are people of diversified bacgrounnsd and communities, we will definitely require
such diversification in order to succeed as a country.
If for instance we say that we only need post graduates to lead us, how will those who have acquired minimum education
meant to relate with them. It should be noted that for people to feel well represented, a leader must have the ability
to empathise with their situation and ultimately deliver them from it. An educated person may not be able to speak a
language that a least educated person can speak. There will also be a clash on interests and therefore creating a big gap.
This is the same with the rich and the poor. Sometimes, some of the ambitions that political leaders have which they
require the participation of the people may be quite ridiculous. A leader cannot for example venture into an expensive
project among the poor people and expect them to fund it. This is because such people are struggling to put food on their
table and may not necessarily have extra funds to find the project. It will however be reasonable if such a leader
encouraged people to pull their resources together and think of ways of uplifting their living.
The reason why there is unequal development in the country even many years after independence is because of poor leadership
strategies. Most of the leaders that are voted in mainly go in because they want power or want to fulfil personal goals.
They may not even know what the needs of the people are and even if they know, it may not bother them much. They will
instead focus on what brought them into leadership and forget why they were voted in. It is unfortunate that even after
several frustrations that the people of America have been exposed to in terms of poor leadership; they still make the same
mistakes by voting in the wrong people. They are deceived by properly coined manifestos most of which are clearly ridiculous.
The excitement they have on what they hear makes them fall victims to such bad leadership.
Another important highlight of the speech that I found intriguing was on those who claim that politics is some sought of evil
of which spiritual people are not supposed to engage in. Despite the fact that politics has its own ways of negatively
influencing people, that is a personal decision that a person should never blame on politics. The need to walk contrary
to one’s set principles emerges if the person was influenced by external rather than internal forces to join politics.
Wherever there was pressure involved to pursue political power, a person is haunted by such influences to fulfil their
personal needs. For instance, some people find themselves in positions of leadership simply because they were pushed in
by people from their communities (Roosevelt 10). They even guarantee such a person the numbers that he or she will need
to clinch the position. In such cases, the agenda of joining politics is not with such an individual person but rather
with the people that pushed them into it.
Once they are there, they will also be forced to act according to their influence since they did not have a specific
agendas for the community. Surprisingly, most of the people that fall victims to such influences are people of high
moral values. They get in thinking they are doing a favour to the people who influenced them into positions not
realising that it is a trap that has been set against them. They are hence intimidated and made to engage in evils
just to please those who advised them to join politics. There are however few leaders who have stood the test of time
since they knew why they pursued leadership positions. They do not allow the dirty side of politics to influence their
principles and instead use their positions positively to impart their communities.
The fact is that politics never make a person bad, on the contrary it is people who make politics to be bad. The
influence and power that comes through politics makes people desire to be part. Politics, compared to other careers
that require certain abilities, anybody who know how to twist his or her words and influence people by their speech
can become a politician. Politics is one of the careers that directly engage people. Some people who do not have the
necessary qualification to pursue a career or are in need of much money consider this as an escape goat. Apart from few
positions that require a person to have attained certain levels of education, some positions can be pursued by anybody
that people feel has what it requires being a leader (Shklar 65). These are some of the considerations that have polluted
Finally, what Roosevelt points out is the fact that politics is not for a few selected people but for every person.
A person should never be deceived to think that they are too irrelevant or unqualified to shape the political climate
of the land. They do not have to wait for a political position to influence the people. After all, there is a lot of
competition especially by the wrong people who feel they have adequate support. The ordinary once may never get to shape
the country if they have to wait for such positions. However, when a person knows what needs to be done then they will
not have to wait for a specific position to do so. The change that is required by a nation lies with every person
irrespective of his or her age, status or even level of education. One can start being a leader in their small environment
such as family, school or even their small group of friend. Once such strong leadership foundations are set, the country
will not face a leadership deficit in the near future.
Roosevelt, Theodore. “The Duties of American Citizenship.” Address to the
Liberal Club, Buffalo, NY, Jan 26.1893 (1967): 3-16.
Shklar, Judith N. American citizenship: The quest for inclusion. Harvard University Press, 1991.