Today marks the Centennial of the death of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.
Although TR passed away at the young age of 60, he had led a life few people, and few Presidents, had led.
He had run for Mayor of New York City at the young age of 28 in 1886. He had been the head of the NYC Police Board in 1895-1897, the equivalent in modern terms of being Police Commissioner. He had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897-1898, and then at age 39 had led troops into battle (The Rough Riders) in the Spanish American War in the spring and summer of 1898, becoming a war hero. He had then, immediately after his war service, been elected Governor of New York in the fall of 1898, followed by becoming Vice President at the young age of 42 in 1901.
And then, fate would have it that President William McKinley would be assassinated in September 1901, making TR our youngest President at 42 years and 10 and a half months, with TR being a path breaking President for the next seven and a half years. He would expand the authority and scope of the Presidency, and become a model for many future Presidents.
TR would become the greatest environmental President, and promote the growing role of the federal government in American life, and advocating “progressivism”, proclaiming he was proud to call himself a “progressive”, and ushering in what has become known in American history as the “Progressive Era” years from 1900-1917.
TR would bring America also into world diplomacy and naval supremacy, with his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for negotiating the end of the Russo Japanese War at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and his manipulation that led to the building of the Panama Canal.
TR was larger than life, and promoted newspapers and periodicals across the nation to send White House correspondents to follow the statements, actions, and antics of the 26th President. He was always the center of attention, in and out of office, as he craved public adulation. He has been regarded by historians and political scientists, on a consistent basis, as a “Near Great” President, as number 4 in scholarly polls over the long haul, just behind three “Great” Presidents–Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
TR’s impact on the nation has been massive and will continue to be so, and only Lincoln is rated higher as a Republican President in American history. And it is clear that TR would be shocked, were he to return and see the conservative swing of the party in the past four decades since Ronald Reagan, and the extremist and dangerous trend of Donald Trump in the past two years. It seems certain that TR would be on the barricades protesting the great damage done to the Presidency by the 45th President, who has set out to destroy everything the 26th President brought about in the early 20th century.