Despite outpolling Taft by 278 to 48 in delegates in Republican primary elections, the Republican Party bosses saw to Taft's renomination. Roosevelt decided to lead the new Progressive Party, "Bull Moose" as it was popularly known, and he came in second to Woodrow Wilson, with Taft in third place.
In his bid for re-election in 1904, Roosevelt had lost New York City to his Democratic opponent but won in Brooklyn. In 1912 he lost to Wilson in every borough, but he beat Taft in every borough.
(Taft went back to private life until 1921, when President Warren Harding appointed him chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a post he held until his death in 1930. His administration of the court was noted for his efficiency as chief justice.)
Roosevelt's support for U.S. entrance into World War I came in 1915 (when that photograph of him in Station Square in Forest Hills may have been taken - not during the 1912 presidential campaign, as I once thought), and when we entered that conflict in 1917, he volunteered, as "Colonel" Roosevelt, to lead a unit in the war. He was turned down. One of his sons, Quentin, died in action in France. Theodore Roosevelt died on Jan. 6, 1919.
His home at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay is a national homestead and it is the kind of place where you expect to hear Roosevelt roaring around and making his presence felt. He is buried nearby, but his grave is no grandiose resting place.
Another national homestead is on East 20th Street in Manhattan, not exactly his birthplace on the same street, but close enough. All these sites are worth visiting. The National Park Service is in charge of these places and does a good job keeping them in shape.
When Gutzon Borglum began to carve the Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota in 1927, Roosevelt was chosen as one of the four heads of great presidents to appear there. The others are Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.
Roosevelt was not very tall, well under 6 feet, but clearly this native of New York City, warts and all (and he had many), was a giant in many ways. The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall at the American Museum of Natural History, dedicated in 1936, and the equestrian statue of him on the steps of the Museum at Central Park West, dedicated in 1940, as well as Roosevelt Park behind the museum, are tributes to an American of immense abilities and commitment. These accolades are far beyond those we associate with politicians today.
Today we seem content to nominate and elect politicians who are proud - proud! - that they just managed to be "C" students in college. And doesn't it show! Why, there are even high elected and appointed members who don't read newspapers because, they assure us, they have staffs who brief them on what's important.
Recently, I came across this quotation attributed to our 26th president: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the American public."
Roosevelt wrote that in May 1918 when we were in the midst of World War I. It is a Theodore Roosevelt comment worth remembering and posting on every American's bulletin board. And it is clearly applicable to any elected or appointed official at any time and anywhere.
Roosevelt was in what once was the great tradition of American presidents who suited their words to their actions. George Washington once said, "With me it has always been a maxim rather to let my designs appear from my works than by my expressions." Roosevelt was in that mold.
One of Roosevelt's aides, the young Douglas McArthur, is reported to have asked the president to what he attributed his extraordinary popularity with the American people. In this election year, it might be worth remembering Roosevelt's answer: "To put into words what is in their hearts and minds but not their mouths."
He probably did the same thing that day when he spoke in Forest Hills Gardens so many years ago. As Samuel Eliot Morison noted, "Lincoln had the same gift."
©2004 Community News Group
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