Book #19 Up Close: Theodore Roosevelt

I really should have known more about Theodore Roosevelt than I do. I guess my time spent in the back row of Norma Jean Spivey’s American History class was a complete wash, because as I read the biography by Michael Cooper of one of our most influential presidents of all time, I was surprised by how much he accomplished in his lifetime.

As a family man, Theodore Roosevelt was fully involved in the life of his family. Very shortly after the birth of his first child, his beloved wife Alice died. Theodore mourned for her deeply, even feeling guilty about remarrying. But, remarry he did, and went on to have five more children. The family of eight were physically very active, even rambunctious in the White House. They turned the White House into a veritable zoo with the number of pets they kept, allowing the animals free reign over much of the house and gardens, even allowing the animals to sleep on the priceless antique furnishings inside the home. But Roosevelt loved his wild and crazy family and was always involved with their many activities.

As a conservationist, Roosevelt did more than perhaps any other president to preserve our nation’s natural resources. He set aside more land than had ever been done before to be used as national parks and protected area.

As a writer, he penned several historical accounts, many of which are still in print today. He wrote about his life as a rancher. He wrote about the Naval War of 1812. He wrote about big game hunting in Africa. He wrote about the Rough Riders, the volunteer cavalry he commanded in the Spanish-American War. And his books sold very successfully.

As a political leader, Theodore championed the progressive movement, even before the movement was organized as a political party. He infiltrated and exposed the ways of the old Republican guard, turning his own political party against him. Though it angered his party, he cleaned up the corruption and bribery that pervaded government. He exposed the fact that government offices were being bought by men who were inexperienced and unqualified for the jobs they held. He instituted the first civil service exams, insuring that those who held government jobs actually had mastery of the skills needed to complete their job.

One of the characteristics that is similar between Theodore Roosevelt and David Livingstone, whose biography I finished earlier this week, is one of moving ahead, despite opposition or approval, when you feel something is the right thing to do. Both of these gentlemen believed that if they waited around for the proper approval, they would spend all of their time waiting and very little of their time “doing”. Neither was willing to waste time seeking the approval of men when they believe God had given them direction. I’ll be looking for that trait as I continue this study of successful people to see if it is common.

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