Theodore Roosevelt, better known as Teddy Roosevelt, was the 26th president of the United States. Teddy dedicated his life to ensuring that the lives of American citizens were always improving. Teddy led a very accomplished and fulfilled life. He attended Harvard, traveled the world, wrote multiple books, became the youngest president in American history, won a Nobel Peace Prize, and founded 150 national forests. That’s just to name a few accomplishments. One of the many impacts that Teddy left on society was wildlife conservation.
He put about 230 million acres of land under federal protection. This land is still protected today. Another impact that Teddy left was the popularity of the presidential election. Throughout the 1800s, Congress was the most powerful branch of the government. Teddy changed this by making the president the center of American politics.
Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27th, 1858 in New York, New York. He is the son of Martha “Mittie” Roosevelt and Theodore, Sr., who was a philanthropist and businessman.
As a child, Teddy was very sickly and had asthma, and was thus told that he wouldn’t be able to compete in sports or participate in most outdoor activities. Teddy refused to accept this and went against everything the doctor advised him. He didn’t take no for an answer and became very athletic by joining programs such as weight-lifting, gymnastics, and boxing. The exercise continued to be important to Teddy, even throughout college. Teddy attended Harvard College where he studied many different subjects ranging from zoology to forensics.
It was at Harvard College that he met his first wife Alice Hathaway Lee, who helped launched his career in politics.
Teddy’s political career started in 1881 when he was elected to the New York Assembly, where he served three terms. Near the end of his third term, Teddy’s life was struck by tragedy.
His wife and mother both died on the same day within hours of each other. In a diary entry, Teddy wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.”To deal with and escape what happened, he retreated to his cattle ranch in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory after completing his final term in the assembly. Teddy lived the western lifestyle by tending to his cattle and even becoming the Billings County Deputy Sheriff. He came to love the outdoors and became a big game hunter. Teddy believed that if he had not gone out west, he wouldn’t have become president. After a few years of living the western life, Teddy was renewed and ready to return to his former life. A big reason Teddy returned to his pre-western life was Edith Carow. Edith was a woman whom Teddy had known as a child. The two were soon married and living in Oyster Bay, New York with their five children: Theodore, Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin. Edith also raised Alice, the daughter of Teddy, and his first wife, Alice, as her own.
Upon Teddy’s return to New York, he began a career as a writer. His first book, The Naval War of 1812, was published in 1882. He wrote many books following this one including Hunting Trip of a Ranchman, The Life of Thomas Hart Benton, and The Life of Gouverneur Morris. Amid Teddy’s writing career, he decided to resume his political career. In 1886, Teddy ran for the mayoral position of New York City. Although he lost, this didn’t stop his advancement in the political world. In 1888, Teddy helped campaign for Benjamin Harrison, who was a presidential nominee. Under Harrison, who won the election and became the 23rd president of the United States, Teddy was appointed to the U.S. Civil Service Commission.
Teddy held this position until 1895 when he was asked to be the president of the New York City Police Board. During his two years in office, Teddy cleaned up the corrupt Police Board and enforced the law that declared it illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays. Although Teddy wasn’t well liked by everyone, especially those involved in the activity of the illegal kind, he managed to remain honest and fair. In 1897, Teddy moved to a different position once again when President McKinley, who had just been elected, made Teddy the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. However, after one year Teddy resigned from this position due to the start of the Spanish-American War.
This was the beginning of the Rough Riders. On May 6th, 1898, Teddy volunteered for the position of commander of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry (a.k.a. the Rough Riders). The unit was a very diverse group that ranged from Ivy League gentlemen to sheriffs to Native Americans. The Rough Riders led a charge up the San Juan Hill (Kettle Hill) where they fought on foot. Although the unit suffered many casualties, they returned to the United States as war heroes and gained much attention due to Teddy’s colorful personality and the diversity of the men. This attention later led to Roosevelt winning the 1998 run for mayor of New York City. Teddy’s stint as governor was short due to his disagreements with his political boss, Thomas C. Platt. To get rid of Teddy, Platt devised a plan to make Teddy the vice president because Vice President Garret Hobart had just died in office. Teddy agreed because it would get him closer to becoming president in 1904.
In the 1900 presidential election, Teddy ran as vice president with presidential candidate William McKinley. Teddy campaigned like crazy and traveled all across America giving speeches and meeting people. In an issue of Harper’s Weekly, a reporter by the name of Mr. Dooley wrote “Tis Teddy alone that’s r-runnin’, and he ain’t r-runnin’, he’s gallopin’.?” Teddy’s hard work paid off and McKinley won the presidential election. McKinley served as president (for the second time) for one year before he was assassinated. After McKinley’s assassination, Teddy became the 26th president of the United States.
Teddy changed the face of American politics. Instead of Congress being the most powerful branch of government, Teddy made the executive branch strong and effective. The president became the center of politics. Teddy accomplished many problems during his first term as president. He pushed for new reforms and a strong foreign policy. Doing whatever was necessary for the good of the public, Teddy occasionally went to the far lengths of his presidential power to accomplish this. In his autobiography he wrote, “I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.” Teddy had solved many problems by the end of his term, both foreign and domestic. The American public loved him and he was famously known for his “speak softly and carry a big stick” way of running the country. During his office, Teddy became known as a “trust buster” because of his involvement with the Great Railroad Combination in the Norwest. He focused on being a representative for all people, so he did things like put big businesses under stronger regulation. One of the biggest things that Teddy accomplished as president was the Panama Canal. Teddy saw the need for a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, so in 1903 construction began on the canal.
Teddy was also a big believer in conservation. To help protect wildlife, he created the U.S. Forest Service, which was responsible for maintaining the nation’s forests and grasslands. Teddy also helped to establish 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks, 18 national monuments, four national game preserves, and 21 reclamation projects. Overall this put about 230 million acres under federal protection.
Theodore Roosevelt led a very accomplished life. He went for what he wanted and didn’t let anyone or anything stand in his way. When the doctors told him he would never be very physical, he joined just about every sport he could and began a daily exercise regimen. He worked his way up the political food chain and eventually made it to the top. Teddy went from being a simple assemblyman for New York City to the president of the United States. He influenced lives everywhere he went and left lasting impacts on America. His work with conservation is still in effect today. He changed the face of American politics forever with his charismatic and driven personality. Theodore Roosevelt’s influence reached the society of his time as well as the society of today.