As we look back at the leaders that have built our country into the formable nation we have today I stand in amazement at the strength, endurance, foresight and decisive action displayed in matters of urgency. One man stands out as a person of immense stamina, brilliant in intellect and constantly expanded his knowledge base. This person was Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Many of us think of him as leading the charge of the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill. As miraculous as this charge was to the history of our country, there was far more to him than that.
Roosevelt was born in New York City in 1858. At an early age he suffered from asthma and was forced to sleep in an upright position. A doctor recommended that he pursue a less active desk job as a profession. His enthusiasm would have nothing of it and he took up boxing and traveled to Europe with his parents where he gained a first hand knowledge of the world outside America.
Roosevelt loved the outdoors and as a child began taxidermy and built his own Roosevelt Museum of Natural History complete with stuffed animals he found or had killed. He entered college and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard. Roosevelt then married and his life seemed set as he had just been elected assemblyman of New York. Life has a way of throwing curves at you and how we handle these situations shape our future. On February 12th, 1884 Roosevelt was blesses with his first child. Two days later his mother died in his home in New York. Eleven hours later his wife died from kidney failure. Roosevelt placed an “X” in his diary, left his child in the care of his sister and went west where he continued to shape his persona.
He returned to the city and brought a toughness and love for the west that would play an important part in the development of America. He became a police commissioner of New York City and immediately turned a very corrupt organization into a hallmark for future police forces. While undersecretary of the Navy during a 4 hour departure of the secretary, he ordered arming the naval fleet, unlimited expansion of personnel and preparation for war. He resigned his undersecretary position, took a commission in the Calvary and formed the infamous Rough Riders. For his action at San Juan Hill Teddy Roosevelt was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Roosevelt was driven to move the United States to be the foremost country in the world. At 42 he was Vice President and when William McKinley was assassinated Roosevelt became the youngest president in U.S. History. He then completed the Panama Canal which had a major impact on world commerce. To commemorate the completion he sent America’s great white fleet on a world voyage to demonstrate American world naval power. It was then that he negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese war and thus he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Roosevelt coined the phrase “Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick.”
Theodore Roosevelt had a wide range of interests and he wrote incessantly. During his life he penned over 20 books while at the same time leading expeditions in the American West and South America.. The creation of Yellowstone National Park as the first National Park was due to Roosevelt and a river in South America was named for him. He traveled to Louisiana for a bear hunt, refused to kill a mother bear with the cub at her side, became a hero in the northern press and thus the small bear carried by small children known as the Teddy Bear was born.
Luck finally ran out for him while exploring a river in South America. He contracted a disease that almost killed him. His strength was never the same and the lost of his son as a pilot in WWI took an emotional toll. He died in 1919 at the age of 60. So much in such a short period of time.
This type of leadership and endurance is extremely rare but if we look hard enough we can find these individuals amongst us today.