Speech at the Dedication of the McKinley Monument
in Buffalo, September 5, 1907
The memorials of a
free people are erected to commemorate public service and the distinction
of noble character. The conqueror, lustful of power, and the seeker
after self-aggrandizement are not counted among the heroes of democracy.
The people honor those who, in their service to their fellow men,
Here was marked the tragic termination
of a great career. Here in an awful moment there were revealed in
sudden lurid flash the opposing forces whose conflict is the history
of mankind. At a time of rare prosperity, when American industry
and commerce were celebrating their triumphs with every circumstance
of proud display in a city of almost unprecedented progress, the
powers of darkness moved to their attack and, in an infernal frenzy
of hate, an abject creature struck down 
the foremost and best-loved of American citizens. Never did evil
commit a more dastardly deed. The victim was the chosen representative
of the American people, no less representative in his death than
in his life. The assassin’s blow was aimed at American institutions,
represented in the head of the Nation, and McKinley fell because
he was our President.
In memory of his martyrdom, in memory
of an heroic death, in testimony to the futility of insensate envy
and the lasting supremacy of law and order, in memory of a worthy
life crowned by its sad sacrifice, this monument has been erected.
The vitality of democracy may be measured
by the generosity of its tributes to fidelity and its appreciation
of honorable motive and public spirit. The people must have faith
in themselves, and the zeal which makes progress possible is not
only intolerant of treachery to the public interest, but expresses
itself in fine enthusiasm for the leaders who have justified the
people’s confidence. Cynicism is a destroying canker. And in proportion
as we revere those who in the past have borne the burdens of the
Republic, gratefully recognize our indebtedness to their service,
and profit by the lessons of their experience, shall we prove our
capacity  to meet the demands
and solve the problems of a later day. In our warm affection and
our tender reverence for those great spirits who in the providence
of God have led us as a people we find the surest basis for our
present trust. An ungrateful republic cannot endure.
It is not my purpose in this brief
exercise to attempt to recount the services of him in whose honor
we meet. They are an imperishable part of the Nation’s history.
Soldier, Representative, Governor, President—these were the stages
of his distinguished career. Having fought gallantly in his youth,
throughout the period of civil strife, to preserve the Union, it
was his high privilege in his last years to preside over the destinies
of the Nation when, with a revived and intensified National consciousness
we assumed the enlarged and unexpected responsibilities which followed
upon a war carried to notable victory under his leadership and supported
by the people in an unselfish enthusiasm for the cause of humanity.
It was his happy lot to be chosen the Chief Executive of the Nation
after a contest which vindicated the sanity of the public judgment
and established new confidence in the working of our popular institutions.
With restored credit, the country under 
his administration, quickly recovering from the depression of trade,
entered upon a period of extraordinary expansion and prosperity.
William McKinley sought patiently to learn the people’s will and
faithfully to execute it.
It is a significant and gratifying
characteristic of the American people that, more than the particular
benefit conferred by service, they prize the virtues of character
which in the course of service are exemplified. Fidelity to friendship,
the exquisite grace of a husband’s devotion, the honor of manhood,
the beauty of the forbearance of unwearied patience, endeared William
McKinley to the hearts of his fellow citizens, and in their memory
eclipse the glories of an administration flattering to American
We may see but dimly into the future.
We may be confused by the perplexities of our modern life, made
the more difficult by the very riches of our inheritance, but as
we set our course by the pole-star of truth and justice and conserve
the ideals of character which our fathers have taught us to revere
we shall not fail.