Portrayed by Doug Mishler
Teddy Roosevelt was a man of many selves – naturalist, conservationist, writer, wilderness lover, big game hunter, ranchman, soldier, and politician. He was a gentleman of inherited wealth who tried to persuade America to end child labor, protect the unemployed, let women vote, and grant old-age pensions. He was the Rough Rider who won the Nobel Peace Price – a lifelong politician and, on occasion, a statesman.
At the height of his popularity, he stepped down from the Presidency. Four years later he bolted the Republican Party to challenge his hand picked successor. In just over ninety days, he and his “Bull Moose” Party humbled a sitting president and decisively beat a party that had dominated national politics for forty years.
Put on your pith helmets! Prepare to enter the arena. Teddy Roosevelt’s re-inventing American politics.
Since 1993 Doug has been nationally recognized for bringing “history to life.” Doug has presented figures from Nikita Khrushchev to Theodore Roosevelt, to Ernie Pyle, and P. T. Barnum. He has made over 800 first person presentations of over 24 historical figures, including Stonewall Jackson, Henry Ford, General Jack Pershing and now Jacques Cousteau & Pablo Picasso.
The voices in his head keep him busy, but also in the last four years he has been the founder & Managing Artistic Director of Restless Artists’ Theatre. When not in the theatre or doing his characters, Mishler has taught American Cultural history at the University of Nevada for over 21 years.
Like his idol T. R., Doug believes there is still plenty of time to grow up and get a “real job”—but later!
Theodore Roosevelt and the Creation of Modern America by Doug A. Mishler
Theodore Roosevelt was a larger than life figure: robust energetic, unstoppable, unforgettable. He was a complex intellectual and a simple man of action. He was a scientist, an explorer, an author, and a cowboy. His brilliance as a politician and his dazzling personality enabled him to remake the nation. He was at his core a vigorous moralist and reformer who advocated equity for the poor, workers, minorities, and women, as he forever altered the national dialogue about the limits of individualism and capitalism. In sum, TR is arguably the central figure of this century, for in a way, all the main issues of the American Century course through him.
“It is impossible to win the great prizes of life without running risks.” Whether as a cowboy in the Dakotas, a soldier on San Juan Hill, or a political adventurer, Theodore Roosevelt never feared risk – “boldness of action always fully justifies itself.” His penchant for risk helped shape modern America’s society, culture, politics, and character. Many remember TR’s long illustrious political career: New York Governor, New York city Police Commissioner, U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, New York State Representative, as well as Vice President and President of the United States. But it is not just Roosevelt’s distinguished political career that makes him one of the seminal figures of the past century. Rather, it is because his career and fantastic life coincided with profound alterations in the fabric of American life.
As a politician – a label he detested – Roosevelt almost singlehandedly forced the U.S. to become a world power for the first time in its history. For good or ill, he moved America away from its traditional isolation. A devout moralist, his guiding belief was that a strong nation “has a duty” on the world stage, to uplift “inferior races” and enforce “international righteousness.” With his amazing energy and audacity, Roosevelt helped compel the nation to build a world-class navy to protect itself and to project the nation’s voice in international affairs. He created America’s “big stick” which the nation wielded in Cuba and the Philippines, and which he deftly brandished to obtain the Panama Canal. Yet despite all his bombast and brandishing, the Roosevelt years were completely peaceful and indeed it was Roosevelt’s “soft voice” brokering international peace treaties at Portsmouth and Algeciras which led in 1906 to his being awarded America’s first Nobel Peace Prize.
In his domestic focus Roosevelt was also revolutionary in his effect on the American character. He was the first President to fully embrace reform and strong government activism. His New Nationalism/Square Deal attacked selfishness and trusts while fighting for equal rights for women, blacks, immigrants, workers, unions, and consumers. An energetic man of action, Roosevelt created the modern “Imperial Presidency” by greatly expanding the scope of his office – “While others dither I act.” He utilized his presidency to quadruple the nation’s parks and forest reserves. With his omnipresent gusto, humor, audacity, and his “bully pulpit,” TR reshaped the American society and character.
Beyond his political accomplishments, Roosevelt was arguably our nation’s most intellectual president. He had an insatiable curiosity, and grilled his dinner party guests about everything they knew. One guest commented that an evening with Roosevelt “drains you.” He read voraciously averaging one to two books a day for his entire life, and he wrote thirty-six books on American history, the environment, and his many wild experiences.
So quintessentially American, Roosevelt’s life was one of great contrasts and color. He possessed a powerful personality accurately described by Henry Adams as “a primal force of nature.” He often acted like a big kid for he loved to laugh and vigorously embraced life, “the worst of all possible fears is the fear of living.” He knew more about the natural world than most scientists and he could recite poetry, discuss literature, and converse freely in five different languages. Though born of wealth and refinement, he was also a man of the people. Despite the fact he never swore (he used only “By Godfrey” when angry,) he was readily accepted by the rough and tumble cowboys of his beloved west. His vigorous life style riding, hunting, boxing, exploring, helped create America’s “manly” persona that is still crucial to our national character. Roosevelt personified the ideal that men and nations must be intelligent, but also must revel in the great challenges and responsibilities of life.
A man with a strong ethical compass, he never deviated from the moral code his revered father taught him – that a true man helped society’s weak and less fortunate. Yes as some have accused, Roosevelt wanted fame and glory, yet it emanated from his moral passion to save the nation. When he stated in 1912, “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the lord,” he was not just expressing a hollow sentiment. The nation faced a new century filled with great social turmoil over racism, sexism, ethnic hatred, crime, poverty, labor unrest, and class war. In response, Roosevelt became a tireless advocate of “equal and exact justice to all citizens….” This “Square Deal” of his was a “…moral duty to stand with everyone while they are right, and to stand against them when they are wrong.”
Roosevelt utilized the presidency and the government as agents in all his crusades. He believed he was a “steward” for all the people. He expanded the powers of his office, and acted in a manner which no president ever had, since “My desire is to achieve results.” He did anything the law allowed. Even if Congress and big business complained, Roosevelt proceeded to seek “a concentration of power in the hands of one man or small group to enable them to do what is necessary.”
The combination of his robust personality, moral character, and path-breaking expansion of the presidency helped Teddy – a name he abhorred – to lead a fundamental shift in the century old American attitudes about individual rights. Roosevelt maintained that while individual rights were sacred, “They are not unlimited.” He asserted that people in a democracy had to sometimes sublimate their individual desires to their duty to enhance the collective good.
TR’s masterful and exuberant life helped reshape what it meant to be an American and recast the American spirit.
- 1858 – Born Oct 27th
- 1877 – Enters Harvard which he hates but becomes devoted to mental and physical fitness at his father’s suggestion. 1878 – Father Dies and Theodore makes his first trip to the Dakotas
- 1880 – Marries true love Alice Lee after finishing at Harvard
- 1881 – Elected to New York State House, serves until 1888
- 1884 – Becomes Minority Leader State House, wife Alice Lee Dies shortly after giving birth to daughter Alice, “the light has gone out of my life.” Goes into exile in the Dakota’s for two years.
- 1886 – Marries childhood friend Edith Karrow
- 1887 – Son Theodore Jr. Born
- 1888 – Leaves State House to become U.S. Civil Service Commissioner.
- 1893 – Leaves the Commission to run for NY City Mayor but fails to win.
- 1895 – Becomes NY City Police Commissioner
- 1897 – Resigns as Police Commissioner to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy
- 1898 – Resigns Navy post to organize volunteer regiment “the Rough Riders” and fights in the Spanish-American War.
- 1898 – Elected Governor of New York
- 1900 – Becomes Vice President of the United States in a political maneuver by Boss Pratt to get him out of the state. Roosevelt describes his political life as over a the post is “a stepping stone to oblivion.”
- 1901– President William McKinley assassinated. Roosevelt becomes the youngest President ever.
- 1902 – Orders federal antitrust suit against Northern Securities; establishes Crater Lake Natl. Park (first of 5 parks he would establish); pushes through Reclamation Act; negotiates settlement with Germany and Venezuela; settles coal strike.
- 1903 – Signs Panama Treaty purchasing rights to build a canal; Creates Department of Commerce and Labor; Proclaims Pelican Island as first Federal Bird Sanctuary (first of 51 he would establish.)
- 1904 – Declares the Roosevelt Corollary to Monroe Doctrine.
- 1905 – Establishes National Forest Service led by friend Gifford Pinchot (first of near 200 million acres of forests set aside by Roosevelt.) Gives away niece Eleanor to distant cousin Franklin at wedding. Establishes first of 5 Federal Game Preserves. Goes under ocean off Long Island in prototype Navy sub “Plunger.” Negotiates Portsmouth Treaty to end Russo-Japanese War.
- 1906 – Negotiates Algeciras Conference which delays World War I in Europe. Wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Gives away daughter Alice in White House wedding to Senator Nicholas Longworth. Signs antiquities act which he uses to establish 18 national monuments (include Devils Tower and Grand Canyon,) signs Hepburn Act (1st federal regulation of railroads.) Forces Pure Food and Drug act and Meat Inspection. Visits Panama Canal project (first sitting President to leave country. Sends Great White Fleet around the World (first fleet to ever do so.)
- 1908 – Convenes first Governor’s conference to discuss Conservation. Appoints William Howard Taft as his successor as President and heads to Africa to hunt.
- 1909 – Rides 100 miles on horseback in one day to set example for greater fitness in military officers, Greets White Fleet’s return. Taft inaugurated. Leads expedition to Africa.
- 1910 – Accepts Nobel Prize and gives address calling for International League of Peace Flies in airplane in St. Louis.
- 1912 – Runs for President (against both Taft and Woodrow Wilson) as the head of the Progressive Party. Becomes known as the “Bull Moose Party,” after his comment about his fitness after being shot by an assassin on October 14th.
- 1913 – After coming in second in the election, with his son Kermit takes part in an expedition to explore the headwaters of a tributary of the Amazon river, “I had to go it is my last chance to be a boy.” Horrible difficulties and diseases almost kill him and affect his health for the rest of his life.
- 1914 – Avidly presses for American involvement in World War I. All four of his sons join in the war when Theodore is denied a commission by his arch enemy Woodrow Wilson (daughter Ethel serves as nurse in Europe.) Two of the sons are severely injured, and the youngest Quentin is killed in action during July 1918. He reflects with pride that “None are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life.”
- 1919 – Rejoices in the war’s end, and prepares to run for President in 1920, but dies after brief illness January 6, 1919. Son Archie cables his brothers “the old lion is dead.”
- Speak softly and carry a big stick.
- I can carve a president with more backbone out of a banana. (On Woodrow Wilson—along with “he is womanly and weak” and “his pledge he ‘kept us out of war’ is yellow just plain yellow”)
- Life is a great adventure and the worst possible fear is the fear of living.
- We must demand equal and exact justice for all men, more than this no man is entitled to, less than this no man should have.
- The only questions we should ask of a candidate for office is can he do the job, and is he a good American.
- I do not believe in hyphenated Americans, you can not be American and something else again.
- I wish not to preach the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, a life of toil and effort.
- The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…
- Peace is a goddess only when she comes with a sword girthed to her hip.
- We must demand noble war rather than ignoble peace.
- Saving our environment is the fundamental issue of our day.
- I believe most in men who take the next step over those who dither about the 200th step.
- Losing a species of animal is like losing all the masterpieces of a great artist.
- I am stripped to the buff and ready for a fight.
- The burdens of modern life should not be born by those least able to bear them.
- Being in the Yosemite Valley is being in a temple grander than any human architect can conceive.
- The West is the perfect American society for out here everyone works, everyone helps everyone else, and nobody asks for special treatment.
Theodore Roosevelt: An American Mind ed. Mario DiNunzio (1994) Some excellent writings and gives a great look into the mind, and his opinions on near everything.
Theodore Roosevelt’s History of the United States: His Own Words selected and arranged by Daniel Ruddy, 2010. In his own style TR delivers the history of the United States…quite fun.
* The Last Romantic by H.W. Brands (1998) A truly wonderful biography that tries to get inside the mind of the complex Roosevelt. My favorite full biography far better than Morris’s works,
* The Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley (2009) The definitive work on the huge part of TR that was his environmental urges and cowboy persona.
* Theodore Roosevelt A Strenuous Life by Kathleen Dalton (2002) A great read on the man and his family and what drove him.
* Mornings On Horseback by David McCullough (1971) Brilliant at capturing the spirit and primal force that was Roosevelt or as Henry Adams called “the qualities that Medieval theology denoted to God.”
My Last Chance to Be a Boy by Joseph Ornig (1994) The rousing trip exploring the river of doubt in Brazil wilderness—wondrous adventure.
(Starred items are available in the Greenville County Library.)