It seems fitting to write a post about Theodore Roosevelt on the 95th anniversary of his death. Interestingly, he wanted to live as vigorous a life as possible until the age of 60 and died when he reached that same year. Also, Theodore Roosevelt happens to be my childhood hero, and I still consider him one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived.
Anyone familiar with Roosevelt’s autobiography knows that he considered himself a very average person. Any success he achieved only came about through hard work. He also displays great humility in the accomplishments which he achieved and was always sure to credit his co-workers for his successes in politics.
In his striving to overcome shortcomings through hard work, he displays the quintessential American value: diligence. People might say that the quintessential American value is freedom, but people hardly understand freedom nowadays. They think that freedom is something given to them, which is true; but, for this freedom to be of enduring value, it must be gained through toil. Untested virtue means nothing; intellectual acumen which merely echoes stands as a facade; and status gained through who one knows rather than who one is stands on a sandy foundation. Why do I mention those three areas? Because they concern the areas where freedom is most cherished: freedom from vice, freedom of thought, and freedom to pursue happiness–for I am convinced that the highest joy for a human being is to live as one’s true self, maintaining a just relationship toward one’s fellow men and a pious relationship toward God. That state is built on freedom.
This freedom cannot be attained without hard work. At times in our life, we wait for a Providential hand to lift us up, and we need that chance; yet, having the chance without the spine to fulfill its duties guarantees that this chance will be wasted.
Theodore Roosevelt was perhaps one of the freest men in American history. As such, people look up to him as one of the highest exemplars of what it is to be American. How did he attain this position? His achievement may be briefly explained that he strove for freedom all his life. When a boy, he developed a fascination for reading and the study of natural science–a solid foundation for freedom of thought. Around 10 years of age, his father told him that he had the mind but not the body and that the mind could not go as far as it should without a strong body. To this, Theodore Roosevelt responded: “I will make my body.” He did just that, giving him the ability to lead as strenuous a life as he wished–as evinced by his many hunting trips, life as a rancher, and service in the Spanish-American War. As a politician in Albany, he strove to research legislation himself to discern its advisability and not to be beholden to party bosses, adding further to his freedom from vice. He carried on being a man of integrity in politics despite receiving death threats and threats that he should lose his office.
To some extent, Roosevelt did not have to fight for his status. He was raised in one of the richest families in New York City; yet, he might have easily fallen into the trap of becoming a dilettante living upon his inheritance. This would have led to him leading a pleasant life of oblivion. Instead, he fought hard to develop various talents and to make an impact upon America for the better.
So, let us toast this mediocre man, who became one of the greatest men in American history and remember that true freedom is only gained through struggle. Here’s to Teddy Roosevelt!