“Bully, Sherman My Boy!”
A Teddy Thumbnail
On December 10, 1906, President Theodore “Teddy” Rooseveltbecame the first American to earn a Nobel Prize when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Russo-Japanese War. (Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama have also won Nobel Prizes since Roosevelt.)
The story of a genuine legend…
Roosevelt was no stranger to accomplishing things and is immortalized on Mount Rushmore along with Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. By no means a namby pamby wimpy pencil pushing politician, Roosevelt, though born into the moneyed class, was a man of the American West and rushed to serve our country when we went to war with Spain.
Although an asthmatic as a child, Teddy went west to lead a life of outdoors ruggedness, a quality that stood him well when he led his men up the slopes of San Juan Hill (actually Kettle Hill) in Cuba against the Spanish. His time out west also stoked his wonder of the natural world, and his desire to protect our natural resources. While out west Roosevelt wrote outdoor themed articles and served as a deputy sheriff. He even met and befriended the legendary Seth Bullock, lawman of Deadwood, South Dakota (played by Timothy Olyphant in the HBO series, Deadwood).
Serving the public as a US Civil Service commissioner and later as the New York City Police Commissioner, Teddy became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President McKinley in 1897. Already a veteran of the New York National Guard, Roosevelt left his post in Washington to head up his famous “Rough Riders,” leading them to fame and glory in the Spanish-American War.
Riding his fame from the war to the governorship of New York, Roosevelt was nominated Vice President following the death in 1899 of McKinley’s VP, Garret Hobart who died of a heart attack. Roosevelt then became our youngest president ever in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated, and served as President until 1909.
Sometimes called “Teddy the Trustbuster,” Roosevelt was concerned about the American consumer and was anti-monopoly for big businesses. He also created our first National Parks, including the massive Yellowstone Park, as well as The National Forest Service and other environmental initiatives. Teddy also sided with the miners during a major coal strike, though he stopped short of endorsing unions. Also an advocate of pure food and drugs, Roosevelt supported legislation to provide clean products for the consumer. Although personally pro-racial equality, the politics of the day prevented a more vigorous agenda in that regard. Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” foreign policy let the world know the US was one of the big boys on the block.
Although Roosevelt lost the Presidential election of 1912, he proved his mettle while giving a campaign speech when he was shot in the chest, but insisted on continuing the speech until complete. He recovered from this wound, and it became part of his legend.
Teddy continued building his legend with a 2 year trip to Africa and an expedition to South America, where he continued his rugged out door ways, pressing on despite serious illness and injury while contributing to the scientific knowledge of the natural world.
TR as he was sometimes called, died of a blood clot in 1919, only 60 years old. His incredibly energetic lifestyle and numerous injuries and illnesses had finally caught up to him. He left behind a grand legacy of his own accomplishments, and also a son, Quentin, that died in aerial combat serving our country in World War I. Other sons, Kermit and Archie served during both World Wars. Teddy’s son Theodore Jr. was a US Army brigadier general that earned a Medal of Honor by tirelessly leading the D-Day landings at Normandy where he was the only US general to land with the troops by sea. A daughter, Ethel, served as a nurse in France during World War I and was active in the Red Cross and the affairs of her county afterwards. She also served on the board of Trustees of The American Museum of Natural History and was devoted to the Civil Rights Movement.
Teddy Roosevelt is by any estimation a Great American, and in the author’s eyes, the Greatest American President.