Theodore Roosevelt was an American. It may be a strange thing to say, but more than almost any other President, he personified the United States. Many people know only four things about him. First that he was President, second, the caricature of his features, thirdly the teddy bear is named after him, and finally, he was a soldier. All of those things are part of him, but there was much more to him than most Americans know.
Some know that he was a sickly child, who through perseverance and difficulty strengthened his feeble frame. A few know that it was his Father that inspired him to do so. Many don’t know that he lost his first Wife, and his Mother on the same day. This devastated the man behind the myth. He left his life as a State Assemblyman to become a rancher and also served as a Deputy Sheriff. This rough adventure helped to build the man we know today.
When he returned to New York, he remarried and returned to politics. Along with his daughter Alice from his first marriage, five children were born into the Roosevelt home. These children were the delight of his life. He served on the Civil Service Commission, was a New York Police Commissioner, and became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
War in Cuba caused him to resign his position and formed the volunteer regiment “The Rough Riders.” While serving, after Colonel Wood was promoted to Brigadier General of the volunteer forces, Roosevelt was placed in charge of his regiment. He was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel. Upon his return to civilian life, many would refer to him as either T.R. or Colonel.
He described that day at San Juan Hill as the happiest day of his life. He lead two very important charges that day, and was nominated for the Medal Of Honor. It would later be awarded posthumously, after his son received it for exemplary service in World War II. He gladly left the halls of power for the battlefield, and cherished his service there.
He was elected Governor of New York, and did so much to weed out corruption, that the “Boss” of his party nominated him to the Vice Presidency, just to get rid of him. In one of my favorite stories, the Colonel outsmarted the politician. Party boss Thomas Platt promised to support Roosevelt’s bid for Governor if he agreed to meet with him before acting. Roosevelt agreed, and true to his word met with him. Then, he would proceed to do exactly what he felt was right, instead of what Platt wanted. This lack of corruption propelled him to the second highest office in the land.
Upon the death of McKinley, Roosevelt became President. It seems he was always meant to be President, as a small boy, he witnessed the funeral procession of President Lincoln. Two presidential assassinations would leave their impact on both him, as well as the country.