Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was an American statesman, conservationist, historian, writer, and naturalist. He served as the 26th President of the United States between 1901 and 1909 (West, 2020). He was the youngest person ever to become president and earned a reputation as a progressive reformer throughout his political career. Theodore Roosevelt is generally considered as one of the five best presidents, famous for his domestic and foreign policies as well as personal qualities that made him a popular leader.
Roosevelt was the head of the Republican party and became a driving force in introducing Progressive Era policies. The public interest was his major concern, and he took vigorous executive action to defend it. He expanded the powers of the presidency and the federal government to support the public interest in conflicts between business and labor (West, 2020). His domestic program, known as “Square Deal,” pursued three major goals: consumer protection, natural resources conservation, and control of corporations. He established new national parks and monuments, regulated railroad rates, pursued the policy of “trust-busting,” and introduced the Pure Food and Drug Act, which banned falsely labeled products.
In his foreign policy, Theodore Roosevelt steered the nation toward expanding its influence over other countries. In Central America, he initiated the construction of the Panama Canal connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. He expanded the fleet and sent it on tour around the globe to project the United States’ naval power. For his efforts in negotiating peace to end the Russo-Japanese war, he was awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.
Apart from his political career, Theodore Roosevelt was a naturalist, historian, and writer. He wrote about 18 books on different subjects, such as ranching, explorations, history, and wildlife. He had six children and a family of pets with unusual names, such as a horse Jocko Root, a dog Sailor Boy, and a guinea pig named Fighting Bob Evans. As a child, he attended Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, and there is a picture of him at the funeral, when he was only seven years old. In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt was on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi, and the Governor found a black bear and tied it to a tree for Roosevelt to kill. He refused and demanded the bear to be set free. The news of this event spread quickly across the country and inspired a Brooklyn candy shop owner to make a stuffed toy bear and name it after the president (West, 2020). ‘Teddy Bears’ gained worldwide popularity and still remain one of the most beloved American toys.
Since childhood, Theodore Roosevelt suffered from severe asthma but managed to overcome it by adopting a healthy lifestyle. He was a hiker, a hunter, a boxer, and the first ever president to fly in a plane. His public image was defined by robust masculinity and manliness. In 1912, prior to his speech in Milwaukee during his campaign, Roosevelt was shot in the chest, with the bullet penetrating his steel eyeglass case and a 50-page copy of the speech (West, 2020). Concluding that the bullet had not reached his lung, Roosevelt refused medical assistance and delivered his two-hour speech.
Overall, Theodore Roosevelt was a president of the people, whom the country seemed to need at that time. He changed the country’s political system, placing the figure of the president at center stage along with the issues that they pursued. He put the concern for future generations, public interest, and the environment on the national agenda and was committed to civil, social, and military values, which made him a truly exceptional president and leader.
West, A. (2020). Theodore Roosevelt: A biography of Theodore Roosevelt, an American president. Ingram Publishing.