Theodore Roosevelt | Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Theodore Roosevelt and Rough RidersEver wonder about our 26th President and the leader of the Rough Riders? Over a century later it’s unfortunate that much is forgotten about him. In 1901 he was sworn in at 42 years old making him the youngest president ever. Amongst being a president and leader of the Rough Riders what else did he do in life? How is it that as a child being sickly with asthma and had to be home schooled that he went on to become known as one of the greatest US Presidents? He ended up on Mt. Rushmore with 3 other great presidents, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, so he must have done something worthy

Theodore Roosevelt summed up his own life in a speech commonly known as “The Man in the Arena,” delivered in Paris in 1910.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

His Life:

Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1858 into a family of privilege and wealth, but he began his life faced with formidable challenges. He suffered from asthma so severe that his family feared that he would not live to see his fifth birthday. When his son’s nightly asthma attacks were particularly troublesome, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. would drive him around the streets of New York in the family’s horse and carriage, hoping that young “Teddie” would breathe easier in the night air. “My father got me breath,” Theodore Roosevelt would later say, “he got me lungs, strength, life.”

Theodore Roosevelt was blessed with a keen and active mind, the boy who would become the nation’s 26th president spent his early youth studying natural history. He mastered taxidermy, building his own collection of stuffed birds and mice. Asthma continued to plague him though and when he was around 11 years old, his father challenged the boy to meet the condition head on, urging his son to take charge of his body. Young Theodore Roosevelt took up an arduous workout program that included exercises designed to thicken his neck and broaden his chest. He accepted the responsibility.

“Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s early childhood experience with a life-threatening illness and his subsequent victory over the condition did much to establish his character, and although he is valued for his life-long accomplishments, it is his character that is perhaps his greatest legacy. No other president so profoundly incorporated into the American identity the sense that the nation was capable of achieving glory and greatness.

Throughout his life, Theodore Roosevelt demonstrated that it is not only necessary to be active to ensure success but to be pro-active as well. In every job and position that he held, he had the courage to take the long view of any situation, never shirking from responsibilities that others would have been content to leave for other generations. Theodore Roosevelt took it upon himself to prepare America for the future.

Here are a few of his greatest accomplishments:

After his appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897, Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy as well as the rest of the country for the coming Spanish-American War. When war broke out, he immediately resigned from his post and formed the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Dubbed the “Rough Riders” by journalists, the regiment gained fame in 1898 for their success in the “Battle of San Juan Hill” in Cuba. “The instant I received the order,” Roosevelt said, “I sprang on my horse, and then my ‘crowded hour’ began.”

After the war, Roosevelt was elected Rough Ridersgovernor of New York. As governor, Roosevelt was so determined to root out political corruption that the leader of his party practically forced President William McKinley to choose Roosevelt as his running mate in an attempt to reduce Roosevelt’s influence on the political stage. When an assassin’s bullet took the president’s life in 1901, Roosevelt became the nation’s youngest president.

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  1. John,

    That’s an excellent article about a guy who led a truly motivating life.

    I’m glad you included the “It’s not the critic who counts” quote. That’s always been one of my favorites.

    As an interesting sidelight, my state, Arizona, has a connection with the Rough Riders. Bucky O’Neill, once a mayor of Prescott, Arizona, volunteered for the Rough Riders and was killed in the Spanish-American war.

    Just before his death in Cuba he was quoted as saying “The Spanish bullet is not molded that will kill me.”

    There is still a life size memorial to Bucky O’Neill in front of the in front of the county courthouse in Prescott.

    • Thanks Terry! I think it’s a great quote too! You don’t hear it too often anymore though. Interesting fact about Bucky O’Neill. I’m going to google him.

  2. This is AWESOME. I never knew half this stuff about Roosevelt; in fact, I didnt’ know that he got into office because his predecessor was shot! Jeez. His quotes here are awesome; I only wish some of our politicians today were like this. Atlhough someone so honest and bold would probably never make it through primaries anyway. 🙁

    • TB, thanks man! TR left quite the legacy! I totally agree with you on politicians. It would be interesting to see him in action now.

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