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Theodore Roosevelt  

Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest President in the nation's history. The 26th President was a reformer and author whose tremendous energy transformed the office of the President
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Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

 

Brief Biography

A brief biography does not do justice to a man like Theodore Roosevelt.  Father, rancher, cowboy, soldier, stateman, sportsman, author, state senator, governor,  Nobel Prize winner and President, Roosevelt was a man of tremendous energy whose outgoing personality captivated almost everyone.  One notable statesman described Roosevelt as an energetic boy who was always on the move, always either working or playing.  While he took life seriously, his joie de vivre charmed almost everyone who met him.

Roosevelt was the son of a wealthy father whose ancestors were Dutch settlers who came to America in the seventeenth century.  As a member of an old family, Roosevelt enjoyed a high social standing in New York.  In short, he was a member of the elite.  He was a sickly child, who nevertheless was intensely curious about everything: history, botany, biology and sports.  He was educated by private tutors and studied at Harvard University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was elected to the most prestigious social clubs.  He was determined to improve his health and through great physical effort transformed himself into a strong young man, full of life.  Self discipline and determination would be hallmarks of his life.   After graduating from Harvard, he studied in Germany for a year.  When he returned home, he entered politics.   He was elected to the New York State Assembly, an office he held for 3 years.  He gained a reputation as a reformer as well as the dislike of the Republican bosses who saw him as an upstart.    Their emnity did not bother the confident young man.

Personal disaster struck in 1884 when his beloved young wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt and his mother died on the same day.  While he was the father of an infant girl, he used some of his inheritance to buy a ranch in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory.  He became a cowboy,drove cattle, hunted big game and earned the respect of the rough, seasoned men who worked for him.   He made life-long friends and proved himself to these hard scrapple men.  The hard work eased his deep depression over the losses of his wife and mother.  After two years, he returned home, travelled to London where he married Edith Carow in December, 1886.   She would prove to be his confidant and mother of five additional children.

In 1889 Roosevelt was appointeed a member of the Civil Service Commission.  In 1895 he directed the New York City police department.  In 1897 he was the United States asssitant secretary of the Navy.  He foresaw the Spanish-American War and in 1898 he formed a volunteer cavalry and was appointed a lieutenant colonel.  He raised the "Rough Rider" regiment from the cowboy friends he made when he lived out west.  His regiment charged up San Juan Hill.  The engagement made him a national hero and his name became a household word.

In 1898 Roosevelt accepted the nomination for governor of New York .  He won the election and served with distiction.   His reputation as an able politician grew and coupled with his fame as a war hero, he was nominated as the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1900.  He was a bit unwilling to accept the nomination but campained widely.  He had little to do as vice president until McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

At first Roosevelt proceeded carefully, but eventually he became known as "the trustbuster" of very big, powerful corporations.  By using the power of his office he also set aside 125 million acres of western land as national forests.

In 1904, Roosevelt was elected president, receiving 336 of the 476 Electoral votes needed.  He then came into his own as he called his progressive program "The Square Deal."   He strengthened the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission and pushed Congress to pass legislation to create the Food and Drug Administration.

Roosevelt was active in foreign policy.  His motto was "speak softly and carry a big stick."  He could work behind the scenes, but many times he was more forceful.   He aided the 1903 Panama Revolution that let to U.S. acquisition of territory for the Panama Canal  ( there is a famous color photograph of him sitting in a huge steam shovel during the digging of the canal.)  He mediated the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.   This won him the Nobel Prize, the first American to win the famous award.   He built up the armed forces, especially the navy.

Roosevelt left office at the age of 50.  He went on a safari to Africa and then a tour of European capitals.   His relationship with President Taft, his friend, soured as Taft was too conservative for Roosevelt.  During the 1912 election , Roosevelt ran as the candidate of the Progressive Party.   He lost to Wilson  (  surviving an assassination attempt).

The last 6 years of Roosevelt life were frustrating.  He wanted to fight in World War One, but was not allowed to raise a force.  His four sons fought in the war.  Sadly his youngest son, Quentin, an aviator, was shot down and died.  This was a great blow to Roosevelt.  Before the War, Roosevelt went on an expedition to the Amazon in Brazil.   While exploring , he almost died of tropical fevers.  This serious illness, coupled with the loss of his youngest son during the war and the attempt on his life led to a deterioration of his health.  He died in his sleep at the age of sixty in his beloved home, "Sagamore Hill" in Oyster Bay, Long Island.

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