1858 - 1919
Spanish-American war hero, Presidentby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Statesman. Colonel. Father. Conservationist. President. Who would have guessed that small, weak, Theodore Roosevelt would ever achieve these titles? Born on October 27, 1858, Theodore was the second of Theodore and Martha Roosevelt’s four children. As a young boy, Theodore often struggled to breathe through frequent bouts with asthma. Because of this, Theodore could not run and play like most children, and became weak and frail. Concerned, when Theodore turned eleven, his father offered him a challenge. “You have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body, the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body.” Soon an open air piazza was converted into a gym. Theodore spent his time increasing his physical strength. He also grew up constantly observing the natural world, enjoying observing the intricacies of creation.
By the time Theodore left for Harvard, he had “made his body.” Now strong both physically and mentally, Theodore studied hard and asked many questions in his classes. During his Junior year, he competed in lightweight boxing, and went all the way to the final round of the lightweight boxing championship. But during his college years, Theodore also suffered the loss of his father to stomach cancer. Theodore mourned, but in what would become typical Roosevelt style, quickly regained his footing, and continued in his studies, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard. After two years in law school, Theodore decided not to pursue law as his career, and left law school.
From 1880-1884, Theodore moved like a whirlwind. On his twenty-second birthday, he married Alice Lee. After joining the Republican party, Theodore was elected and then re-elected twice to serve in the New York State Assembly. In 1883, Theodore served as the minority leader in the Assembly. During this time, Theodore also established two ranches in North Dakota. Busy reforming New York Politics, Theodore took the time to finish and publish a book, The Naval War of 1812, a must read book on military strategy in the Naval Academy for many years. Theodore was thrilled when, on February 12th, 1884, his daughter Alice Roosevelt was born.
But two days later, tragedy struck. Theodore’s mother died of typhoid fever, and only a few hours later, his wife died of Bright’s Disease. Unable to cope with the emotional toll, Theodore left his baby daughter with his older sister Anna, and left for his ranches in North Dakota. For the next two years, he was a “ranchman,” in the badlands of North Dakota. When Theodore returned to New York, an old family friend, Edith Carow, and Roosevelt grew close. They decided to marry on December 2nd, 1886. Theodore also ran for Mayor of New York City, but was defeated by the Democratic nominee.
After his wedding in London, Theodore took Edith and Alice to the home he had built in Massachusetts. Sagamore Hill would become the family residence for many years. There, less than a year after their marriage, Theodore Jr. was born to Edith and Theodore. After Kermit’s birth in 1889, Roosevelt was appointed to the post of Civil Service Commissioner. The family moved to Washington, and while there, Edith, and Archibald (Archie) were born. In 1895, Roosevelt decided to resign as the Civil Service Commissioner to become the Police Commissioner of New York City.
Roosevelt’s work with the New York Police Department showed that he was a man ready to change what needed to be changed. Roosevelt forced police officers to be accountable, making sure that the job really got done. Seeing Roosevelt’s work in public office, President McKinley appointed Roosevelt Assistant Secretary of the Navy. When the Spanish-American war began in 1898, Roosevelt left his wife, family, and new baby, Quentin, to become Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st US volunteer cavalry regiment. Proving his ability to lead, Roosevelt was promoted to Colonel of the regiment before the battle of San Juan Heights. Three months after he had left, the war ended, and Roosevelt returned home.
Many people wanted a “war hero” as governor, so in November 1898, Roosevelt ran for and won the office of Governor of New York state. Roosevelt left his post to run as Vice President with President McKinley in the presidential election of 1900. McKinley won, but tragically an anarchist shot McKinley on September 6th, 1901. Roosevelt became the youngest man ever to become president when he was sworn in on September 14th, 1901.
Roosevelt got right to work. Once in office, he began to break up the huge monopolies, and people nicknamed him “The Trust-buster.” Many of the trusts were shocked that their shady dealings were finally being questioned. Between filing lawsuits against the trust, Roosevelt created five national parks. He also made a treaty with Panama to buy a small strip of the thinnest part of the Panama isthmus, to build a canal to help shorten the boat trip between the eastern and western United States.
America re-elected Roosevelt in 1904. Roosevelt was glad to be elected President in his own right. Roosevelt continued to show his love for nature by creating wildlife preserves, and establishing national monuments. He also showed his ability to successful deal with other nations; mediating talks between Morocco and France and Germany, helping to avert war between Africa and Europe. He also looked forward to the new state of Israel. "It seems to me that it is entirely proper to start a Zionist State around Jerusalem," wrote Teddy Roosevelt, "and [that] the Jews be given control of Palestine."
Roosevelt left the office of president ready to continue his personal life. He tried to run again for President in 1912, as a third party candidate. There was an attempt on his life, but Roosevelt survived, although he was not elected. He traveled to Africa on hunting trips, and continued to write several more books. Roosevelt died of a blood clot on January 6th, 1919. Roosevelt was only sixty years old. He proved to America what determination, hard work, and perseverance could do, and is remembered as an “all American Hero.”
Sources:Chessman, G. Wallace. Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Power. Waveland Press Inc: Prospect Heights, IL. 1969.
"Life of Theodore Roosevelt." Timeline. January 2001. 11 October 2003. http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/timeline.htm
"Past Presidents." Theodore Roosevelt. 11 October 2003. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/tr26.html