"There is a homely old adage which runs:Speak softly and carry a big stick;you will go far. (the quote continues below)If the American Nation will speak softly,and yet build,and keep at a pitch of...

"There is a homely old adage which runs:Speak softly and carry a big stick;you will go far. (the quote continues below)

If the American Nation will speak softly,and yet build,and keep at a pitch of the highest training, a thoroughly efficient navy,the Monroe Doctine will go far." --Theodore Roosevelt,April 2, 1903.

In the quote ,Roosevelt is speaking U.S policy toward Latin America.What did he mean by"speak softly"?How did his words describe the way the U.S acted toward Latin America at this time?

Asked on by infinito

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The idea of "speaking softly" referred to the idea that the United States was going to negotiate peacefully with countries in Latin America.  At the same time, it was going to have this big navy with which to threaten Latin American countries.

I do not think that the US adhered very much to the "speak softly" part of the quote.  It is no accident that this era is known for the "big stick" aspect of the quote.  The US typically used its military might to get what it wanted and did not really do much in the way of peaceful negotiations (it is hard to imagine how serious such negotiations would be anyway when both countries knew an invasion could happen if they came out wrong).

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Teddy Roosevelt preferred to allow strength to speak for itself.  As an example, he sent a flotilla of warships, painted white because it was the color of peace, on a mission around the globe to establish good relations with other countries.  The fleet was the epitome of the saying "Speak softly and cary a big stick".  Every port of call they made allowed the world to see that America sought peaceful diplomacy, but was more than willing to use force if necessary.  In case there was any doubt, "take a look at our fine fleet of battleships".

Foreign policy under Teddy Roosevelt, an imperialist, was pretty aggressive.  And while he didn't make warlike speeches to the American public, our foreign policy didn't speak softly in my opinion.

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