This inscription appears in the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Problems abound with Theodore Roosevelt’s statement, “If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.”. Roosevelt places peace and righteousness at odds with one another; many would say that peace, and nonviolence more generally, are the essence of righteousness. There is no concrete definition of “righteousness.” History is littered, replete, scattered, piled high and deep — any word but resplendent — with opposing leaders in bloody, violent wars who each have chosen “righteousness” over peace. Substitute “arrogance” for “righteousness.” And who’s to say there isn’t some third option?
To its credit, the museum features a book with this more pithy summary of the Roosevelt era of American history:
I prefer the word “ass.”