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Teddy Roosevelt’s 1905 Inauguration: Unity, Responsibility and Pioneer Spirit

A look at Theodore Roosevelt's diverse and triumphant second inauguration in 1905, his call for American responsibility and virtue, and his aim to inspire national confidence and pioneer spirit.
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A Diverse and Exuberant Inaugural Parade

On March 4, 1905, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in for his second term as president of the United States. His inauguration marked the beginning of his only full term as president, having assumed the presidency in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley.

Roosevelt’s inaugural celebrations reflected the exuberance and diversity of America at the turn of the century. The inaugural parade was filled with cowboys, Native Americans including the legendary Apache chief Geronimo, coal miners, soldiers, and students – capturing the mosaic of American life in the early 1900s.

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Chief Justice Melville Fuller administered the oath of office to Roosevelt on the East Portico of the Capitol building. Roosevelt then delivered his inaugural address, striking an optimistic and uplifting tone about the country’s future success while warning of the hard work required.

President Roosevelt in carriage en route to Capitol
President Roosevelt in carriage en route to Capitol

Roosevelt’s Call for American Virtue and Responsibility

In his speech, Roosevelt proudly spoke of America’s prosperity and happiness compared to other nations, crediting the “Giver of Good” for blessing the country. He remarked on America’s unique privileges – to lay new national foundations on a new continent without the burdens of an established civilization.

While encouraging cordial relations with other nations, Roosevelt also stressed military strength and readiness so that no foreign power would wrong America. He called for “the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness” rather than peace for its own sake.

Roosevelt emphasized the grave trials facing America as a new world power with great wealth, industry and responsibility. He warned that failure of America’s democratic experiment would undermine free institutions worldwide.

On March 4, 1905, Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated as president in Washington, D.C. with celebration and fanfare. He rode in an open carriage down Fifteenth Street, tipped his hat to crowds, and took the oath of office on the Capitol steps, administered by Chief Justice Melville Fuller.
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Maintaining America’s Pioneering Spirit

However, Roosevelt expressed faith that today’s generation would meet its challenges with the same spirit as the nation’s founders. According to Roosevelt, while contemporary problems differed from those historically, the fundamental American spirit remained unchanged.

He urged citizens to face the nation’s complex modern problems with intelligence, courage, determination and devotion to high ideals. Throughout his address, Roosevelt highlighted American virtues like self-reliance, initiative, energy, confidence, pragmatism and justice.

He called citizens to exercise these virtues in solving current challenges and carrying out their duties. With this uplifting rhetoric, Roosevelt aimed to motivate Americans to maintain the nation’s pioneering spirit, character and ideals even as the country assumed a greater role on the global stage.

President Theodore Roosevelt passing 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in inauguration parade on way to the Capitol
President Theodore Roosevelt passing 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in inauguration parade on way to the Capitol

Inspiring National Unity and Confidence

Roosevelt’s soaring speech reflected his vision of an ascendant America that combined ethics, civic responsibility, military strength, social justice and economic prosperity. Roosevelt sought to inspire Americans to approach the future with vigor and moral purpose.

Judging by the enthusiastic parade crowd, Roosevelt succeeded in capturing the imagination of people from all walks of American life who saw their ideals championed in his confident leadership. Though facing new complexities, Roosevelt affirmed that the country could summon its historic virtues to unite for future greatness.

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