When Teddy Roosevelt was asked to give a speech to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, on June 2, 1897, readiness was his theme. He insisted the only way to keep peace was to be ready for war, and the only way to be ready for war was to enlarge the Navy. It was a rousing, patriotic speech. The following February, the Maine was blown up, killing 264 sailors and Americans across the land cried, ‘Remember the Maine!’ In April, President McKinley asked Congress to declare war on Spain.
Not surprised that he backed the war effort, most Americans were surprised when Teddy Roosevelt resigned from his position as assistant secretary of the Navy three weeks after the war declaration…so that he’d be ready to fight. His friends told him he was crazy for throwing away his political future. His wife was against it. Yet all who knew Roosevelt well knew, even as they made them, that their protests were in vain. He had to join the effort. He later wrote that he wanted to be able to tell his children why he had fought in the war, not why he hadn’t fought in it. As far as he was concerned, a person simply couldn’t preach one thing and then do another.