In “Theodore Roosevelt and the Masculine/Feminine Complex” (NER 26.4, 2005), Rob Hardy begins with this anecdote:
My wife and I were waiting in line to speak to our son’s math teacher at parent–teacher conferences when I noticed the poster on the wall of the middle school cafetorium:
Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
I pointed out to my wife that the exhortation comes from Roosevelt’s Autobiography, where he is actually quoting someone named Squire Bill Widener of Widener’s Valley, Virginia, who was in turn quoting an anonymous bit of homespun folk wisdom. I told her I found it interesting how Roosevelt gave certain ideas like this, that were not necessarily his own, the force of a personality. He embodied a certain idea of America, I said.