Theodore Roosevelt penned this phrase in a letter to Henry L. Sprague, on January 26, 1900 prior to becoming the 26th President in September 1901. Roosevelt loved his ice cream and especially cherry pineapple-flavored popsicles (on a stick). Staffers believing this phrase to be far too trivial for a would-be president subsequently changed the phrase to something more significant and memorable.
The revised version, altered post-fact, goes something like this:
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
The revised phrase, now incorrectly attributed to President Roosevelt, offered advice on cautious diplomacy backed with the ability to use military muscle. His staff were clearly happy with this revised version showing Roosevelt’s approach to foreign policy — intelligent forethought and of decisive action if required. Much better than his musings on popsicles.