Happy President’s Day.
In honor of the US office of President, I want to remind everyone of five interesting facts about my favorite presidential figure, our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
1. He served in numerous high profile political offices. Just to name a few: He was the 33rd Governor of New York. He was the 25th Vice President of the United States under William McKinley. He was the police Commissioner for New York City. He was Minority Leader of The New York State Assembly (where he punched out several opposing politicians in a bar fight). And, he served as the Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy. Not a bad résumé.
2. He voluntarily started a military outfit. This was, of course, in order to help with the Spanish American war. His “rough riders” consisted of former college boxing buddies, professional athletes, cowboys from the Dakotas, Native American friends, and polite society gentleman who drank with Teddy. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership in the decisive battle at Kettle Hill.
3. He suffered from asthma-like symptoms for the majority of his life. Biographers tend to cite this early childhood ailment as the chief opportunity that permitted Teddy with time to read and read and read some more. Roosevelt read thousands of books ranging from forestry to warfare to poetry to European history. This ailment also acted as a lifelong foil to his vision of manhood. It motivated him to go to war when he was ineligible to join armed forces. It motivated him to become a champion boxer at Harvard. It motivated him to take up early morning rows on the lake.
4. He was a prodigious writer. At the age of 24 he published The Naval War of 1812 and was considered one of the foremost authorities on the subject. He penned 17 additional books on subjects such as natural history and the vision of the American frontier. It could be argued that his role in American popular life is as much a function of his writing as his political voice.
5. He won the Nobel peace prize. In 1906 he was awarded the prize for his work in negotiating a peace settlement between Japan and Russia. But this award could be considered a lifetime achievement for Teddy’s Big Stick diplomacy (speak softly but carry a big stick) — a throwback to his days as the commissioner of the New York City Police. As much as Teddy liked to mix it up in controversial matters (ahem — he punched a fellow politician in an Albany bar) he seemed to do so with a noble end in mind (peace and progress in moving forward).