October 20, 2011
by findingDulcinea Staff
Theodore Roosevelt was a larger-than-life figure with varied interests, working as a politician, soldier, hunter and naturalist. He greatly expanded the powers of the presidency, employing a strong hand in foreign affairs, taking on big business and introducing a wide range of conservationist policies.
Biography of Teddy Roosevelt
Born into a prominent New York family, Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child, but became physically strong through “that indomitable determination which characterized him in every act of his life,” according to his New York Times obituary.
Roosevelt graduated from Harvard and attended Columbia Law School, but dropped out to become active in New York City politics. He also took time to travel through the American West, working as a rancher and frontier sheriff, and hunting big game.
Roosevelt became president of the New York City Police Board in 1895 and became known for cleaning up corruption. In 1897, President McKinley named Roosevelt, a scholar of naval history, the secretary of the Navy. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt resigned his position to form a regiment to fight in the war; known as the “Rough Riders,” Roosevelt’s men took part in the Battle of San Juan Hill.
Praised nationally as a war hero, Roosevelt’s political career took off. He was elected governor of New York and then selected by McKinley to run as his vice president. Roosevelt became president in 1901 following the assassination of President McKinley.
As president, Roosevelt reigned in big business through increased regulation and trust busting, pledging to give Americans a “Square Deal” that benefited all classes. A lover of nature, Roosevelt was the first president to make conservation a priority, setting aside millions of acres as federally protected national parks. In foreign affairs, Roosevelt followed the slogan “speak softly and carry a big stick,” meaning he would seek peace through negotiations but maintain a strong defense in case war was necessary. Roosevelt also implemented the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, pledging to intervene in conflicts between European and Latin American countries in order to prevent Europeans from intervening themselves.
Roosevelt chose not to run for a second re-election in 1908 and spent his post-presidency years traveling through Africa on safari, hunting animals such as rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and elephants. Upon his return to the U.S., he re-entered politics; disappointed by the policies of his successor, William Howard Taft, he unsuccessfully ran against Taft for the 1912 Republican nomination and then formed his own party, the Progressive Party or “Bill Moose” Party, to run for president. Near the end of the campaign, an assassin shot Roosevelt in the chest before a speech, but Roosevelt insisted on delivering the speech before going to the hospital. Roosevelt finished second in the election, defeating Taft but losing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
After the election, Roosevelt traveled through the jungles of Brazil and traced the River of Doubt, now known as Roosevelt River. During this time, he contracted a fever that contributed to his failing health. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Roosevelt argued for American intervention. When the U.S. did intervene in 1917, he encouraged his four sons to join the military. His youngest son, Quentin, was killed in July 1918, leaving him distraught.
Roosevelt died in his sleep at his home in Oyster Bay, N.Y., on Jan. 6, 1919 at age 60.