The Roosevelts

Thursday, August 25th 2016

I've never particularly liked documentaries. (although I did really like the YouTube documentary about about the making of Clerks) But I've been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimite History on Netflix, and it's really good. My thoughts going in were that I'd enjoy watching the bits about Franklin Roosevelt most, but I'm just a couple episodes in, and I found myself seriously impressed with Teddy Roosevelt.

I know tales of the Bull Moose are somewhat legendary, but from his time in the Mexican-American war with the Rough Riders to his tragic Amazon expedition, I've found the documentary far more riveting than I'd have imagined, and I've barely even reached the part of it where it's discussing World War One.

A few anecdotes related in the documentary have really stuck with me. For one, during a shootout in the Mexican-American War, he shouted at a soldier taking cover: Stand up! I'm on horseback, and you can't even get to your feet? The man he'd shouted at stood up and was immediately shot. It seems that Teddy survived out of pure insane luck. One might imagine that he was charmed.

One of Teddy's favorite expressions is one that I've a mind to start using. Bully! Not in the contemporary sense of the word, like a schoolyard bully. His exclamation was one of commendation. Good job! Bully on you! It's a catchy phrase that I'd like to bring back.

I hadn't known it, but many of the progressive developments I'd often associated with The New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt saw their beginnings with Teddy. Child labor laws, minimum wages, antitrust acts, and more that I'm probably not thinking of at the moment. It was said that the man had a strong sense of morality, and that he'd go against his own party if he felt that it was right to do so. How can you not admire that?

But for all his admirable qualities, it seems that Teddy was warlike and an imperialist. The US conquered Puerto Rico and Hawaii on his watch. While these things may have been good for America, it's difficult to say that history looks upon those actions kindly.

Another of my favorite quotes was something to the effect that after having spoken with Teddy for a time, one would need to go home and wring the personality out of his clothes.

While president, in his 40s, he used to box with younger staffers. It wasn't until he was hit and lost the vision in one eye that he decided he was too old to box. So he took up Ju Jitsu.

And most people know of the time after his presidency when he was giving a campaign speech and was shot. He announced to the crowd that he's been shot, and apologized that because of that his speech would have to be short. He showed his bloodstained shirt, and pivoted right back into how it was important to his prior points. He continued to speak for over another hour, and at the end he was having trouble staying on his feet. That was one tough guy.

It's for many of these reasons, I imagine, that they added his face to Mount Rushmore. Maybe it's also why the red stuffed animal I had as a kid was named Reddy Toesevelt.

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