It is amazing to read another side of a person you may have studied
in Social Studies or in American History classes. Theodore Roosevelt,
Jr. faced horrible losses and a singular joy all in a short period of time.
The pain was so much he needed to get away. He needed to ‘wallow’
in his sorrow and be alone while grieving.
“The Light has gone out of my Life.”
These words were found in a personal journal, carrying the weight of
true sadness. Theodore Roosevelt’s wife died and in a short amount
of time later, his dear mother died.
Both women died in the same house.
Both loved ones died on the same day.
The joy was his daughter, Alice Lee.
The cause of his wife’s death, as so often happened in the past, was
due to this precious baby. I remember seeing this in movies, in books
and my mother mentioning how common this ‘death during childbirth’
occurred. He was 26 years old, handling the baby by himself. We don’t
hear about the details, except that he chose to escape. His family must
have taken care of baby Alice, while he was gone.
“The Elkhorn Ranch” became his place of healing and solitude. This
is place is in North Dakota.
This journey is an incredible story. One where Theodore Roosevelt
sought nature for his grief counseling. This led him to incorporate
the idea of preserving nature into his future plans. Taking care of his
country had not been originally part of his political plans. Teddy
himself said this (paraphrased):
“I would never have been President if not for my experience in
Once renewed, he came back to New York and ran for political
offices. . . all leading up to his saving land for National Parks.
When the story was mentioned in a brief account on CBS Sunday
Morning, I noted that this story originated from February, 1884. It is
approaching 131 years since Theodore Roosevelt retreated from the
dual deaths, the birth of his daughter and got out of the public eye.
While rustling cattle out West in the Dakotas, he again met death.
Freezing wintertime caused sickness and his herds of cattle died.
The image of the sole remaining rock, the only remaining part of
the Elkhorn Ranch’s foundation that is left, was shown. A historian
leaned over the rock, as if studying all of the details of Theodore
Roosevelt’s rocky, rugged path in life.
The beautiful miles and acres of land surrounding this place, still
are pristine. The cottonwoods glistening in the sun while shaking and
making a hissing sound captured my attention.
But the personal tragedies that Theodore Roosevelt endured is what
really held my interest.
I had to know more. . .
As a child, Theodore was a sickly, asthmatic boy. His family was well-
to-do and had him home-schooled. Something in Teddy’s spirit made
him a fighter. This gut instinct would carry out throughout his life. He
joined athletics, hiked often in the outdoors, and embraced the idea of
trying to strengthen his body.
As if he were laughing at the ‘fates’ and was challenging them to a duel,
Teddy wanted to overcome his childhood weakness.
Theodore successfully graduated from his home-schooling,
proceeding onward to Harvard for his undergraduate studies.
He successfully went on to Columbia Law School. He met and
married the wealthy Alice, who he lost.
Theodore came back from his escape in the Dakotas, having spent
a wild time there. He had ‘licked his wounds,’ found solitude and
regained his determination to make an impact on the country.
There were several steps, you may read about, that led him to
become a politician running for different offices. He rose through
the ranks, showing his acumen for politics.
The road to Theodore Roosevelt becoming President was an
interesting political story but I am more interested in his life’s
Again because of a death, President McKinley’s assassination,
Theodore’s path got altered. Through tragedy he rose to this
place of leadership, being sworn in shortly after the death.
Six years later, he met and married his second wife, who he had
five other children with. His family life is not detailed in the
articles I read, but may be found in historian’s accounts and his
family stories. There are surely many biographies about Theodore
Roosevelt to fill in some of the gaps I have left open.
Theodore Roosevelt died at age 60, somehow this makes another
impression on me, one of sadness. I will be 60 this year.
Teddy’s life just seems like it was too short.
I feel his brief life was one filled with great contributions.
One that may be considered “a Force to Reckon with.”
Here’s how he made a difference. . .
~Created the “Rough Riders.”
~Won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize due to his successful negotiations
and mediation between Russia and Japan, ending the war.
~Appointed the first Jewish man to his Cabinet.
~Talked about different races, if they were to be admired or disdained,
he believed each one should be taken individually and considered on
their merit. His open-minded comments sometimes were muffled by
his outspoken, out of context, racist comments. (See what he said
about Indians, for example.)
~Open door policy about Immigration, but again stressed that
the individuals needed to become American and respect the
country that became their own, leaving behind the country they
~Created “Square Deal” and its unique way of political thinking.
~Went on safaris where the hunted animals were made part of
the Smithsonian Museum’s exhibits. Some have not been as sure
that this was a scientific or worthwhile project. These days, it may
be ‘frowned upon,’ by animal protective league members and
~Spoke out and acted for Conservation and Preservation.
~Directly responsible for Congress approving Eight National
~”30 million National Parks and Forests” are his unspoken legacy.
(This high number was mentioned in the news essay, I am wondering
if this is meant to include international park numbers influenced
by his great works.)
The above interpretation of Theodore Roosevelt’s life
was written by Robin O. Cochran, (1/6/15).
Two famous quotations by
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. :
1. “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do
is the right thing.
The worst thing you can do is nothing.”
2. “Courage is not having the strength to go on,
it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”
“Between every two pines
is a doorway to a new world.”
“The wonder is that we can see these trees
and not wonder more.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
J. Sterling Morton.
A book to read, newly written:
“The Art of Stillness,” by travel writer Pico Iyer.
It highlights a wide variety of people, including
famous rock stars, artists and ‘thinkers’ who have
found solace in solitude. It also features yoga,
meditation and how being ‘still’ can lead to
“By slowing down and sitting still one can
spark creativity and even adventure,”
“Men’s Health,” January,2015 issue.