On this date in 1901, the United States received one of the most invigorating bursts of fresh air in its history. Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 26th President, following the death of President William McKinley. At 42, he was the youngest President ever and he joyfully embraced a vigorous life.
I first became totally hooked on Theodore Roosevelt when I read Edmund Morris's brilliant The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979). Although I have read many books by and about TR since then, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt remains my favorite. The book not only chronicles well TR's life up to his inauguration as President, it brings to life TR in all of his vitality.
Before becoming President, TR had been a New York State legislator, a rancher, an author, a U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, a member and then chairman of the New York City Police Board, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, colonel commanding the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (the Rough Riders), Governor of New York, and Vice President of the United States.
As President, TR built up the United States Navy, promoted conservation of natural resources, backed pure food and drug laws, and made the United States a major force in world affairs for the first time. His facilitating of the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War brought him the Nobel Peace Prize.
From "Citizenship in a Republic," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 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 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 up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 knew neither victory nor defeat."
From A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open, 1916:
"Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the 'the game belongs to the people.' So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method."