The life of Theodore Roosevelt was filled with family, books, nature, military, politics, and hard work. From his early childhood in a privileged family, through his two terms as president, to his death at the age of 60, Teddy never held still for very long. Always ready with a toothy grin and firm handshake, he came to embody the image of a ‘hard-working American’, who deserved every success he achieved in life.
For Roosevelt, life was an adventure waiting to be discovered. When he was a small boy, his asthma and allergies kept him confined to his bed or couches, almost swallowed in a pile of pillows and surrounded by medicine and doctors. But Teddy was never one to be kept down. After his father installed a gym at the family’s home, he set to work building his body into a strong and admirable physique, which he would maintain until just before his death. At the age of nine, he also began a lifelong love of nature, starting his own ‘Roosevelt Natural History Museum’ with two cousins, in 1867. He later attended Harvard, where he was a voracious reader and worked on a book about the naval aspects of the War of 1812. The book was such an accomplished academic research work, it is still considered one of the foremost authorities on the topic.
Of course, the incomparable life of Teddy Roosevelt must include mention of his presidency. Having risen in the political arena over the years, he was vice president when McKinley was assassinated in 1901. As soon as he was sworn into office, Teddy set to work changing the country. As an avid outdoorsman, hunter, and nature enthusiast, he revolutionized U.S. policy on conservation and preservation. Establishing the U.S. Forest Service, designating more than a dozen national monuments (including the Grand Canyon), and signing the Antiquities Act into law, he ensured that future citizens would be able to enjoy the beauty of the country he loved so dearly.
He also dedicated his time as president to reform of corrupt government, creation of vital social programs, dissolving (or ‘busting’) huge corporate trusts which were stagnating U.S. economic progress, and implementing his Big Stick Policy to expand the country’s global presence. Some of his policies and programs were met with consternation and resistance, but he was never one to shirk from a good debate. In fact, he even helped orchestrate some groundbreaking peace agreements, such as the Portsmouth Treaty. This successful 1905 negotiation led to the end of the Russo-Japan War, and his award of the Nobel Peace Prize, securing his spot in presidential history.
For Theodore Roosevelt, later life was no less active than earlier life. When his time as president ended in 1909, he went on an African safari. In 1912, when Taft (his hand-picked successor) began disappointing him, Teddy decided to try for re-election, even creating his own branch of the Republican Party in the process (the Progressive or ‘Bull Moose’ Party). His reward for these efforts was an assassination attempt on the campaign trail, just before a speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In typical Teddy fashion, minutes after being shot in the chest, he continued with his planned speech saying: “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose.” When his bid for re-election failed, Teddy didn’t just go home to retire. Instead, he went on an expedition to South America, from 1913-14, where he almost died from tropical fever and infection from leg wounds.
The Teddy Roosevelt ‘life story’ can’t be summarized in just a few words. But his legacy of camaraderie, determination, passion, and tenacity will live on.
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