My fellow-citizens, no people on earth have more cause to be thankful than ours, and this is said reverently, … with gratitude to the Giver of Good who has blessed us with the conditions which have enabled us to achieve so large a measure of well-being and of happiness.
To do so we must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities … which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln.
Those two paragraphs are the first and last of Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration speech. When I think of Roosevelt, I think of a dynamo, a devoted son, a loving father, and a brave warrior. This speech shows that he thought of himself as something else, “My fellow citizens…” In other words, not above or superior to any in his birthright, for all in this marvelous land were Americans. That’s one of the things that I love about Roosevelt, more than anything else, he was a product of his country.
He loved, slept, ate, and breathed with a fascination of our land. That does not mean that he did not see the ills of it. One of his first acts as President, upon the assassination of President McKinley, was to promote fair labor for the working man. His entire policy towards business and labor was in this philosophy, “a square deal for every man.” Roosevelt wasn’t in favor of advantage on either side, but instead, a level playing field for healthy competition.
Fascination with our country did not limit his view of the world however. When Russia and Japan could find no solution to their war, he offered to broker peace. On top of the end to that war, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Another issue loomed beyond our borders that he felt needed his attention. Since 1534, a water passage through the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, was desired by world leaders from Spain Thomas Jefferson, but it took Theodore Roosevelt to make it a reality.
As President, he would take time for countless projects, but most of all he took time for his children. He was as rambunctious as they were, taking great joy in their antics and animals. The White House was more than a capital, or a symbol, it was a home. Theodore Roosevelt made sure that the business of the Presidency never interfered with his calling as a father.
By the time he spoke the first two paragraphs that began this post, Theodore Roosevelt had been President three years. Made President by an assassin’s bullet, he was elected in his own right in 1904, and promised not to seek a second term. He kept that promise, campaigning for William Howard Taft. As time went on, he did not agree with Taft’s policies, so he ran against him in the next election, splitting the vote three ways.
We think of Roosevelt as a man who always won, but it’s how a man handles loss that shows his character. He had experienced the death of his first Wife early in life. After a tragedy such as that, anything else pales in comparison. He could handle much minor losses, including a reelection to the Presidency.
In this case, the “Bull moose” and his third party, would not succeed. While he failed to win, a would be assassin also failed to kill him. The bullet went through his coat, and lodged in his chest muscle, never to be removed. The papers of his speech were credited with keeping the bullet from penetrating further. Even in defeat, Roosevelt withstood attack.
After this, along with his son Kermit, he went on an expedition to South America. It did not go as planned, tropical fever almost killed him, but again he survived. He would be plagued by reoccurring illness, as the result, for the rest of his life.
Later in life, Taft and Roosevelt would rekindle their friendship, knowing that it was more important than politics. It was not long before his death in 1919, that the once close friends mended their feud. It shows that forgiveness should always be given a chance, no matter the age or the argument.
Throughout his many setbacks, Theodore Roosevelt continued to love his God, his family, and his country. A man of faith, he loved to sing in Church, he enjoyed spending time with his family, and defending his country. Roosevelt knew what was important above all other things.
His greatest loss came late in life. It was that of his son Quentin, a fighter pilot, shot down over German lines. Distraught, the former president sought permission to lead a volunteer regiment overseas during World War 1, but it was never granted. Unable to do so, he did what he could to support the War stateside. Roosevelt was a man never ready to stop fighting or learning. The morning after his death, they found a book under his pillow that he had been reading.
The Colonel, one of his favorite titles, had many throughout his lifetime. Son, brother, husband, father, Police Commissioner. A member of the New York Assembly, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Rough Rider, Governor, Vice President, and President. These are only a few of the offices that he held during his life, but without a doubt, one he was proudest of, was that of a citizen of these United States Of America.