By Pierce Word
A few weeks ago my cousin, who is an elementary school teacher shared a few pictures of her classroom after she had prepared it for her new class. On the wall, above the whiteboard was the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Believe you can & you are halfway there.” Being the investigative type that I am, I wanted to track back the source of the quote, and its original context. I did countless internet searches, and all agreed that Theodore Roosevelt said it, but nowhere could I find a speech or letter which contained to quote. In a final act of desperation I turned to Pierce Word’s “Wisdom from the Oval Office: Words for George Washington to the Present.”
Within the pages of Mr. Word’s book, touted on the cover as being “The Ultimate Presidential Quote Book,” is collected quotations from each of the forty-two men to have been fortunate enough to hold the office of President of the United States. The author has grouped the quotes into forty categories: America, Belief, Business, Change, Constitution, Country, Democracy, Economy, Education, Error, Freedom, Friendship, God, Government, Happiness, History, Honor, Hope, Law, Leadership, Liberty, Life, Love, Mind, Money, Office, Peace, Politics, Power, Presidency, Religion, Rights, Success, Time, Trust, Truth, War, Wisdom, Wish, and World. Within each category the quotations are arranged chronologically by President. Below each quote Mr. Word has noted its source, and each categorical chapter concludes with its own end notes.
Flipping through its pages, I hunt for the Theodore Roosevelt quote that started my quest. Closing in on my prey I flip to the section on “Belief.” There on page 20 I spied “Believe you can & you are halfway there,” and below it was the object of my desire, a source citation: “U. S. Congress, Congressional Record, October 9, 20074.” What?! 2007??? How can that be, Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919! I then flip to the chapter’s end notes, where Mr. Word included the following note: “4 Vol. 153, pt. 19, U. S. Congress, Congressional Record, October 9, 2007.”
I’ve come too far now to give up. A search of the Congressional Record, for October 9, 2007 brings me to the speech of Congressman Harold Rogers of Kentucky, “Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Pride – Personal Responsibility in a Desirable Environment,” in which he states “Theodore Roosevelt understood the need to protect our natural resources and a short sentence he once said sums up so well the spirit of PRIDE today: ‘Believe you can and you're halfway there.’” So I’m back to where I started. Everyone agrees that Theodore Roosevelt said it, but even Mr. Word could not track down the origins of the quote.
Every other quote in “Wisdom from the Oval Office” that I have checked tracks back to its original source material, I just happened to pick the one that didn’t, and I suspect with this particular quote Mr. Word was as frustrated as I.
Nevertheless, “Wisdom from the Oval Office” is a fantastic resource for Presidential quotations. Whether or not it is the “Ultimate Presidential Quote Book” I will leave for you to decide.
ISBN 978-1933909493, History Pub Co LLC, © 2013, Paperback, 323 Pages, Chapter Notes, & Index. $18.95. To Purchase the book click HERE.