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Some other things Teddy Roosevelt said at Osawatomie

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President Obama recently gave a speech at Osawatomie, Kansas. (Don't you just love these Midwestern Indian names? Michigan has a Genesee county; Kansas has a Wyandotte county; horrible Kathy Nicklaus lives in Waukesha. Great fun to say.)

Speaking at Osawatomie, Obama quoted Theodore Roosevelt:

“Our country,” [Roosevelt] said, “...means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy ... of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”
Sounds very progressive-sounding, doesn't it? (Yes, I meant that.) It also sounds pretty general, but that's Obama's style it seems; promise the general, deliver the second lieutenant.

Obama went to Osawatomie quoting Roosevelt because Roosevelt also spoke at Osawatomie, in 1910, and in my opinion gave a much better speech (PDF). I mean, how do you compete with this prose, taken just as prose:
There have been two great crises in our country's history: first, when it was formed, and then, again, when it was perpetuated; and, in the second of these great crises - in the time of stress and strain which culminated in the Civil War, on the outcome of which depended the justification of what had been done earlier, you men of the Grand Army, you men who fought through the Civil War, not only did you justify your generation, not only did you render life worth living for our generation, but you justified the wisdom of Washington and Washington's colleagues.
But to the point, Obama appears to have read only Roosevelt's intro, since he quotes just the second sentence. Here are some other things Teddy Roosevelt said at Osawatomie (h/t Kevin Murphy via email; all emphasis and reparagraphing mine):
■ The Constitution guarantees protections to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.

The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man's making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being.
The creature of man's making shall be the servant and not the master. How do you not love that? (Given his immediate need, I'm not sure our Fierce Defender understands who is the master.)

More Roosevelt:
■ There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains.
Very modern, yet we're still waiting to implement this, after all these years. It's a straight line, isn't it — from corporate personhood under the 14th Amendment to "money equals speech" to Citizens United and endless cash endlessly buying elections.

Undoing corporate power is one of the tasks of this just-born century. A hundred years ago, Roosevelt considered it a task for the last one. We're late.

On punishment for corporate malfeasance:
■ I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law.
Incentives matter. Humans held responsible for human behavior when they cause deaths, or worse, kill to win. And I'm a great fan of the Corporate Death Penalty — when corps kill people, they should be killed, their charters revoked. Let the shareholders roll dice to see who gets the shoes.

On Wall Street investing vs gambling:
■ Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered - not gambling in stocks, but service rendered.
If Obama would say that with his deeds, I'll be a Fierce Defender myself.

And finally, Roosevelt making the "living wage" argument, which (once) was an actual core teaching of the Catholic Church:
■ No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so that after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community.
Meanwhile, the history of the minimum wage, even under Democratic control of government, is shameful. In real terms, the U.S. minimum wage peaked in 1968.

I'll stop here, but feel free to read the rest of the speech. It's chock full, famous for a reason.

Does Obama's "I get it" speech stand up? I guess that depends on what he actually does, and not what he says.


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