Theodore Roosevelt: The Master of American Manliness
Happy birthday to the master of American manliness, Theodore Roosevelt, born in New York City on October 27, 1858.
Although young Theodore Roosevelt suffered poor health throughout his childhood, he refused to let his sickly body prevent him from living the great life of adventure that his powerful mind conjured up. As he vowed to his father, “I’ll make my body. By heaven, I will.” Through vigorous exercises including weight lifting, boxing, and gymnastics, Roosevelt made good on his promise. In the words of author George Grant, “he literally beat his body into submission.”
The tenacious spirit that Roosevelt displayed during his boyhood remained with him for the rest of his life. He approached everything that he did with boundless energy. As Grant puts it, “Before his fiftieth birthday he had served as a New York state legislator, the undersecretary of the Navy, police commissioner for the city of New York, U.S. civil service commissioner, the governor of the state of New York, the vice president under William McKinley, a colonel in the U.S. Army, and two terms as the president of the United States.” In addition to all of those incredible accomplishments, Roosevelt also made his mark as an athlete, rancher, reporter, author, scientist, and more. One of the shining examples of his inexhaustible drive and unquenchable appetite for knowledge is the fact that, “He read at least five books every week of his life and wrote nearly fifty on an astonishing array of subjects-from history and biography to natural science and social criticism.” Above all, he was devoted to his Christian faith and his family.
Theodore Roosevelt was so respected during his time that even his lifelong political opponent, William Jennings Bryant, expressed the ultimate admiration for his profound greatness. “Search the annals of history if you will,” Jennings said. “Never will you find a man more remarkable in every way than he.” Those words could not be more fitting. Roosevelt lived boldly, bravely, and dutifully, firmly believing in his role as a “steward of the people” and dedicating himself as a leader to building a better nation for his countrymen. To this day, we are still benefiting from his leadership. The estimated 200 million acres of land that he set aside for national forests, reserves, and wildlife refuges are just one part of his enduring legacy.
A man of the people, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, a posthumous recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration for valor under fire, the Medal of Honor, and so much more, Theodore Roosevelt was truly an American colossus. We would all do well to strive for excellence as earnestly as he did and remember the immortal words from one of his most famous speeches: “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, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; 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 fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
History.com: Theodore Roosevelt.
The Courage and Character of Theodore Roosevelt by George Grant.
The White House: Theodore Roosevelt.