Who Said That?: Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick


The well known phrase “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick; you will go far” was first stated by publicly U.S. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt on September 2, 1901 at the Minnesota State Fair. Twelve days later, he became president following the assassination of William McKinley. Roosevelt claimed the phrase was of West African origin but there is no direct evidence to support this.

What has come to be known as Big Stick ideology, Big Stick diplomacy, or Big Stick policy, the slogan described Roosevelt’s extension to the Monroe Doctrine which was the policy against European efforts to further colonize or interfere with the affairs of the Western hemisphere. Roosevelt described his style of foreign policy as “the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis”.  The concept of negotiating peacefully, backed up by military “might”, is similar to the German idea of Realpolitik, (political realism)  which prioritizes  national interest and security rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises. (Wikipedia: Big Stick IdeologyRealpolitikPolitical Realism)