Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy 155th Anniversary Mittie & Theodore

On December 22, 1853, in the Bulloch family home on the top of the knoll, Martha “Mittie” Bulloch of Roswell, Georgia, married Theodore Roosevelt of New York, New York, and the parents of our twenty-sixth President began a twenty-five year marriage that survived the Civil War and thrived in its aftermath. By the time he died of stomach cancer in 1878, Theodore Sr. and Mittie had raised four children, “Teedie” the sickliest, through a myriad of childhood illnesses, to young adulthood and lives of promise.

As I reflect on the magic and mystery of marriage and how men and women can come together through such amazing circumstances, I can only be thankful that those magical, mysterious things came together on this day in Roswell, Georgia. President Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t spring from the ooze of history without antecedent. He was here through loving parents, with devoted siblings and eventually amazing children and progeny. It is no wonder that healthy family life was something he lived and promoted his whole life through.

I so strongly suggest that you visit Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia. The director, Pam Billingsley, and all of the people there are the friendliest and the explication of TR’s southern roots the most thorough in the nation. The Wiegands will visit Bulloch Hall when we bring the Teddy Roosevelt Show to Roswell on January 3. Hope to see you at J. Christopher’s for a great dinner show and a salute to the president who was half New Yorker and half Georgian. Here’s a toast to Theodore & Mittie!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My fight for good government.

The news from my home state of Illinois reminds me that we need the words and wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt as much today as we ever have. The Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, was arrested this morning by federal authorities on public corruption charges, including selling his power to appoint the person who will replace President Elect Barack Obama in the United State Senate.

I haven’t written much about it here before, but the news from Chicago makes me feel pretty good about how I spent the last twenty years of my life, attempting to be a part of bringing better government to the state and the people of Illinois.

Twenty years ago, Jenny and I settled back in DeKalb, Illinois after having spent a post graduate year travelling to Costa Rica, South Africa, Italy, the Philippines and South Korea to interview national legislators in those countries. I enrolled in the political science graduate school program at Northern Illinois University, taking a next step after years of campaign work, community activity and a great undergraduate education at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Back in Illinois, it didn’t take me long to begin volunteering and eventually working professionally in campaigns and public policies, seeking and serving in elected public office myself when I could. As a Republican in the mold of Ronald Reagan, I thought his revolution should finally come to the state of his birth. In 1991 and 1992, I managed a successful Illinois state senate campaign for Chris Lauzen, a Republican, CPA businessman, an outsider and reformer with a Harvard M.B.A. In doing so, we beat the GOP machine. In 1993 and 1994, I ran for the state house, against a Republican former house incumbent. While I received the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune and others, I just couldn’t raise and spend the big money necessary. Democrats later told me that undecided voters were moving to us 3 to 1 over the former incumbent in the last week of the campaign, but we fell short.

In 1996, I was elected to one of twenty four seats on the DeKalb County Board, where I served on the finance committee and sponsored the successful property tax cap referendum. That same year, I began working professionally for Citizens for a Sound Economy, running the Illinois State Chapter, representing 20,000 members in Illinois as we advocated lower taxes and smaller government. In 1999, after newly inaugurated Republican Governor George Ryan raised taxes and fees in a massive spending increase, I was responsible for leading anti-tax protestors in crashing the governor’s first Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair. Above his picnic, an airplane towed a banner: “Repeal the Ryan Tax Increase.” I wasn’t involved in politics to make friends and the GOP machine marked me as an enemy.

In my home county, friends called me “Taxcutter,” a moniker given to me by the promoters of the 1995 Rockford Toughman Kickboxing Competition where I won one by first round knock out and lost one in a three round decision. When the governor began a dog and pony show tour of the state, in an auditorium filled with state employees and grant recipients, I stood toe to toe with the governor and challenged his abandonment of his limited government, no new taxes campaign pledge.

In 2000, I joined Family Taxpayers Network, an Illinois group, as executive director, testifying before the Illinois Gaming Board against expanded gambling proposed by Governor Ryan and fighting for lower taxes, school choice and traditional values. I’m proud of the work I did there.

In 2002, I was re-elected to the county board. I also supported Pat O’Malley, another reforming state senator running for the GOP nomination for governor. While other Illinois GOP leaders were willing to defer to Governor Ryan and his whim of running for re-election, Senator O’Malley began his campaign while it was still unclear whether Ryan would run for re-election. When Governor Ryan announced his decision to not seek re-election, a precursor to his eventual indictment and conviction on public corruption charges, AG Ryan and Lt. Gov. Wood joined the race, Ryan edging out O’Malley and Wood before losing to then Congressman Rod Blagojevich. It was my contention then and I still believe today, that the senior leadership and most of the candidates brought forward by the GOP machine were entirely disinterested in pursuing any sort of clean up of public corruption in the state of Illinois.

In 2004, I ran for the state house against a different Republican state house incumbent, a friend of mine who had voted for massive tax increases under Ryan and Blagojevich. Six weeks after the campaign began, the incumbent died of a heart attack. My county board chairman, over whose objections I had sponsored and passed tax caps, was appointed to the vacancy and won a 55% to 45% primary. I could have done worse. I turned down an offer to manage the U.S. Senate campaign which ended in chaos with Alan Keyes imported to run against a little known Chicago state senator named Barack Obama.

In 2005 and 2006, I managed the gubernatorial campaign of Jim Oberweis, a businessman with tremendous success in asset management and the dairy and ice cream businesses. In a four way Republican primary, ours was identified as the real reform and good government campaign, though we fell short, coming in second while winning one third of Illinois’ 102 counties.

It was after this campaign that I took a look in the mirror and didn’t much like what I saw. I was way over weight and tired, having spent eleven months working twenty hour days, seeing my family infrequently and doing things like barking at them when the news coverage of my candidate turned false and bitter. After the campaign, Jenny shared with me that for a fellow who campaigned “pro-family”, I sure didn’t spend much time with mine.

Practicing what we preach. Actions and deeds rather than words. This amazing Teddy Roosevelt Tour came about, in great part, because it was time for me to take some action for myself and my family. To lay claim for better health and to take a break from the unhealthy, corruption filled environment of Illinois politics and government.

It’s been an amazing adventure. I’ve had a chance to perform for President and Mrs. Bush at the White House and for some of the most amazing, politically important national organizations in the country. As Theodore Roosevelt, with as much loyalty to the historic record as I can muster, I am able to bring the words and ideals of Theodore Roosevelt to life for audiences hungry for his straight talk and his Square Dealing ways.

I’m out the door to help the people of North Central Florida celebrate the Centennial of the Ocala National Forest, one of the over 150 national forests declared by TR.

In the spirit of the work of District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI (founded by TR in 1908), I am looking forward to “the clean, fresh air.” If this keeps up, I may just have to take another look at being a man in the arena, practicing what I preach about the need for good citizens to be involved for the right reasons.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

TR's First Annual Message - December 3, 1901

On December 3, 1901, America’s youngest president, brought to office by assassination less than three months before, sent his first State of the Union Address to Congress. Known as T.R.’s First Annual Message, the message sets the nation and the world on notice. A new kind of president was in the White House.

In this First Annual Message, T.R. makes the case for increased and renewed federal legislation to reign in trusts, railroads, financial speculators and despoilers of natural resources while reiterating the importance of individuals, their abilities and their efforts:

“Fundamentally, the welfare of each citizen, and therefore the welfare of the aggregate of citizens which makes the nation, must rest upon individual thrift and energy, resolution and intelligence. Nothing can take the place of this individual capacity; but wise legislation and honest and intelligent administration can give it the fullest scope, the largest opportunity to work to good effect.”

The speech, in the format I have, is over twenty pages long, single-spaced. It is full of new, thoughtful ideas. TR makes the case for a unified Bureau of Forestry under the Department of Agriculture, taking over the protection duties borne by the General Land Office and the mapping and cataloguing activities of the Geological Survey. By 1905, TR won these reforms and the modern Forest Service was established. TR presages the Newlands Reclamation Act, calling for the wild and wasted waters of the West to be tamed for agriculture and settlement. This didn't take as long, Congress hopping aboard in 1902.

TR advocates for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Zoo to have sufficient resources for their important work. He reiterates the importance of an Isthmian Canal, the authority of the Monroe Doctrine and the need for a stronger Navy. Half a dozen other historic issues play out in his message. It's inspiring to see what TR had in mind as he served the ball to Congress.

These December days are full of important TR dates. This anniversary of his First Annual Message reminds us of TR’s first winter in the White House.

The anniversary celebrated on December 2, the anniversary of his 1880 wedding to Edith Carow at St. George’s Hanover Square, England, should be remembered here, too. Throughout my studies of TR and his family, I continue to be struck by the personage and character of Edith Carow Roosevelt. As a wife, mother and First Lady, Mrs. Roosevelt set the bar and certainly assisted a great deal in supporting the man America loved.

A happy and belated anniversary to TR and Edith. A timely acknowledgement of the anniversary of TR’s First Annual Message, and an early New Years Resolution by this blogger to feed the keyboards with a bit more regularity in the days and weeks ahead.

All the best.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night

On Election Day, 2008, the people of the United States of America are making a historic choice for President and Vice-President. Either Barack Obama and Joe Biden or John McCain and Sarah Palin will win a majority of the Electoral College. The most obvious historic factors for are the election of America’s first racial minority as President or our first female Vice-President.

On these points, America wins in either case, coming a long way in the century since TR watched the election turns with the energy and enthusiasm that we do so tonight.

One hundred years ago, on election night 1908, TR delighted in sending a fake telegram to wife Edith, claiming that Pine Knot, Virginia, the rural retreat she had purchased south of Charlottesville, Virginia, had voted for William Jennings Bryan over William Howard Taft.

TR had reason to delight and make whimsical. His hand chosen successor had won the Presidency by healthy electoral and raw vote pluralities, though smaller than TR’s own 1904 landslide. TR reveled in his plans to spend the next year hunting in Africa with son Kermit and then touring Europe with Edith the following spring.

Ahead lay the barnstorming on behalf of Republicans in 1910, another run for the presidency in 1912, and significant efforts for candidates in 1916 and 1918. When TR passed these earthly bounds on January 6, 1919, he was considered the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in the 1920 election.

Early election days, for the New York General Assembly in 1881, 1882 and 1883 brought wins, and one loss, coming in third for New York City Mayor on November 3, 1886. The elections for Governor in 1898 and for Vice-President in 1900 put TR in that place from where he came ready to lead a nation.

Tonight, after two long years of campaigning, an historic presidential election comes to an end. In either outcome, God bless and keep our nation and her people and God bless the President-elect and Vice-President-elect.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Road To (& From) the White House

Yes, we did it. Jenny joined me and we had a great celebration of Theodore Roosevelt’s 150th Birthday with President & Mrs. Bush at the White House on Monday, October 27. All the way through it was WOW and all the way after it’s been WOW again.

It was an honor and privilege to reprise TR for the President and for an East Room full of honored guests, many associated with TR’s legacy as family, public servants and leaders. I was blessed to have met my goals: to do TR well and to bring some laughter and enjoyment to the President, his family and guests. I hope you enjoy the video clip at which includes Mrs. Bush, Professor John Cooper, TR Joe, Job Christenson, Joel Gilbertson and President Bush. If you watch the beginning closely, you’ll see Jenny, beautiful and radiant, escorted to her seat behind the President.

I could go on, ala TR’s military aide and Sewanee man Archie Butt, with a letter describing the party, but I’ll leave that to Jenny. I enjoyed meeting guests and taking pictures – the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral according to Alice, right?

Taking pictures after with President & Mrs. Bush, I actually remained in character and told President Bush, from my own (TR’s) experience, that if he felt called to a third term he should lie down until the feeling passed, though I acknowledged the need to amend the Constitution if he were so inclined. I realized I may have left the President wondering just how crazy this TR really is.

Guests were so gracious. I especially enjoyed performing for Jim Bruns, President of the Theodore Roosevelt Association (, Bob Model, Chairman of Boone & Crockett (, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, men whose organizations highly regard TR's legacy. What a thrill to bring TR to life for a very knowledgeable and appreciative group of American patriots.

Celebrating in our hotel room with friends from the St. Lawrence River and Sewanee (Thanks, Lee, Elizabeth, Daniele, Peter & Ashley!), Jenny and I finally crashed at 4:00 AM. I was up at 6:00AM and at 8:00 AM I was showcasing for Forest Service officers in Northern Virginia. The next two and a half days were highlighted by an amazing visit to Pine Knot, the rustic Roosevelt family retreat in the mountains south of Charlottesville, on to the Theodore Roosevelt Preserve in Southeastern Ohio and the Theodore Roosevelt memorial oak in Cincinnati’s Eden Park. The fall colors, the crisp sun and the exhaustion and thrill of the days conjured windshield day dreams about the months ahead.

Today, I stopped in Spring Valley, Illinois, to visit the John Mitchell memorial, commemorating the United Mine Worker President so illustrative of TR’s Square Deal policies. The day before, October 29, is celebrated by UMW and coal families as John Mitchell Day, in honor of his birthday. So, in just a couple days, I travelled from the White House to the Illinois hometown of a coal man who earned the regard and friendship of a great American president.

It’s been an amazing road to and from the White House. I hope to see you on the road sometime soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Theodore Roosevelt

As a native of Chicagoland (my parents met at Theodore Roosevelt High School on Chicago’s north side), I admit that my love for America’s Second City has always left me with a New York-sized chip on my shoulder when considering the city of Gotham. On Saturday, October 26, I had a New York City experience that just about washed away every bad memory associated with the 1969 Miracle Mets beating my hapless Chicago Cubs.

Theodore Roosevelt is the only United States President born in New York City, and I have a growing appreciation for the way that colossus fueled the spirit of a man who made such an impact on the world. TR’s birthplace at 28 East 20th Street in lower Manhattan, New York City is now a National Historic Site administered with great enthusiasm and skill by the National Park Service. To accommodate the collections of treasures and trophies from TR’s adventurous life, the birthplace has been rebuilt such that it is double its original size, incorporating the home of TR’s uncle, aunt and cousins at 26 East 20th Street.

The birthplace hosted a wonderful 150th birthday celebration, blocking off 20th Street between Park Avenue on the east and Broadway Avenue on the west. The pedestrian parade of families and tourists from around the city and around the world enjoyed a taste of TR and a birthday treat or two. The sight of Rough Riders on horseback and a Colt automatic gun on 20th Street announced that something special was underway at the red, white and blue bunting-clad home on the south side of the street.

Fitting for a celebration of a public man who served as President of the New York City Police Commission in 1896, a New York City Police Officer sang the National Anthem and its glorious message, born in the heat of battle, bounded off the canyon walls as the sun shone down from above. A truly splendid day followed, full of period songs, pony rides and the sounds laughter and fun. In the late afternoon, I brought TR to life in the beautiful theatre on the site’s fourth floor. Before me, with a handsome portrait and bust of TR looking on in stern approval, three young New Yorkers recited the speeches which won them scholarship prizes in the Theodore Roosevelt Oratorical Contest.

With a salute to the staff and volunteers of the National Park Service who came from throughout the many park sites in Greater Manhattan to make this wonderful day happen, Jenny and I dashed off for the American Museum of Natural History and its many Roosevelt memorials on the western parkway of Central Park. Inspired by the murals and by the equestrian statue of TR, I shared “The Man in the Arena” with an international audience, who paused in the promenade to take in just a little of the delight and the spirit that was Theodore Roosevelt.

As we get ready to perform at the White House for President and Mrs. Bush, as we celebrate the announcement that the TR Museum will indeed be built in Teddy’s Oyster Bay, as we give thanks for the many blessings we’ve known along the way in this great American adventure, I say a birthday prayer for Theodore Roosevelt – American Hero, President, Rough Rider, Conservationist, Hunter, Writer, Historian, Father, Son, Husband. We have much to live up to, America.

To learn more about Theodore Roosevelt and to support the building of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Museum and Research Center visit Come join in the fun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The White House

There have been so many amazing, wonderful experiences on this TR Tour. They far outnumber the challenges and the hardships along the way. In recent days, we received the most wonderful invitation that serves to wipe away all memories of transmission repairs, wrong turns in the mountains and $4.50 per gallon gasoline.

On TR’s 150th birthday, I will entertain at the White House for President and Mrs. Bush and a wonderful audience in the East Room. All I can say is, “Wow!”

Soon after taking office, TR signed an Executive Order instructing the federal government to call the President’s home by the name given to it by the people: the White House. To that time, the stationery, like the government, said The Executive Mansion.

As planned by Congress and the McKinley Administration, the White House was extensively renovated, with the additions of the East Wing and the West Wing during TR’s administration. As we know, TR’s impact on the Presidency and the business done at the White House was more groundbreaking than structural and name changes.

To have the honor and privilege to entertain at the official White House celebration of TR’s 150th birthday is a wonderful capstone to this portion of the TR Tour. Jenny will be with me, as we travel down from a wonderful weekend with the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. Sam will miss this moment, as she will be with grandma in Sewanee. Meanwhile, Jenny and I will focus on giving the best possible performance.

If I can bring a little TR history to life, if I can get the first family to enjoy a few moments of laughter in the midst of their amazing duties, I will have hit the mark. Here’s to TR and a wonderful visit to the White House.

In the spirit of TR, I ask you to follow your dreams, keep your feet on the ground, be a man or a woman in the arena, and leave your campground cleaner than you found it. Bully!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

TR's Square Deal & the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902

In the fall of 1902, the United States of America was threatened by a continuing strike in the anthracite coal mines of Pennsylvania and the surrounding region. For the first time in American history, the President of the United States sought to arbitrate a great labor strike, forcing the mine owners and the representatives of the mine workers to settle a strike and subsequent lock out that threatened, in the least, to leave millions of citizens without adequate winter fuel, and, at its worst, to boil over into widespread violence and federal military intervention to seize and operate the mines.

Where previous presidents had used federal troops to literally bust strikes and labor actions by union workers, Theodore Roosevelt sought to grant the United Mine Workers a seat at the table. The story of how Roosevelt appointed an arbitration committee is, indeed, a profile in courage and innovation. Frustrated that mine owners would not agree to a position for a “mine workers union representative” on the arbitration panel, T.R. did win from the mine owners the agreement to allow an “eminent sociologist” to be appointed. Boldly, T.R. appointed John Mitchell, President of the United Mine Workers, as the “eminent sociologist” and mine owners went along with the arrangement.

On October 15, 1902, the Anthracite Coal Strike was settled. Neither side was entirely happy. Workers received a small increase in pay and little else. Mine owners continued to refuse recognition of the union. Still, disaster was averted, and T.R. asserted a right which now seems to be a presidential responsibility. When major disruptions occur between labor and management, especially in areas determined to be critical to our economic well-being, we now look to the President of the United States to bring opposing sides together, to forge a Square Deal where otherwise great harm might be done.

To celebrate, on October 15th, I planned to visit Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania. I did so, but I was struck and saddened by the reality that Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School housed its last students this past summer. Today, the teenagers of Altoona are studying across the street in a state of the art school, renamed generically the Altoona Area Junior High School.

As I watched the wrecking crew work on the old 1923 building and as I toured the new school, I couldn’t help but feel some remorse for the fact that students would no longer have that visceral bond with history that I think comes from attending a school named after a great American. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of these children had great, great grandfathers whose jobs were saved and lives improved in the mines of Pennsylvania by the man in the White House who was committed to securing for the American worker and his family a Square Deal.

In my own mind, if the leaders of the Altoona Public Schools were looking to give their students a Square Deal, they might have done more to keep the name and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt alive on their school.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It takes more than a bullet to kill a bull moose!

On October 14, 1912, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, former president Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a would be assassin. The shooter, John Shrank, died in a Wisconsin asylum some thirty years after having been found criminaly insane.

The bullet tore through Roosevelt's jacket, through his fifty page folded speech and through his steel eye glass case. Certainly, the bullet was slowed by these items before lodging itself in a chest which the surgeon later said was amongst the most powerful he had ever seen.

Roosevelt spit into his hand. Being a hunter and seeing there was no blood in his spittle, TR knew that his lung was not punctured. Though the bullet was still in him, TR refused medical attention and demanded to be taken to the audience waiting to hear the Progressive Party candidate for president,

TR spoke for nearly eighty minutes, telling the audience, "It takes more than a bullet to kill a bull moose." Can you imagine? It is simply an honor and a thrill to portray a man who is so very thoroughly dedicated to the vigorous life, to fighting for the right and for facing danger with pugnaciousness and courage.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Of father and son - happy birthday, Kermit Roosevelt.

On October 10th, 1889, Kermit Roosevelt, third child and second son of United States Civil Service Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt and his wife Edith was born at the family home at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.

TR had six children, daughter Alice born just two days before Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, her mother, died of Bright's disease on February 14, 1884. Nine months and one week after marrying in December 1886, Edith and Theodore welcomed Ted, Jr. Kermit followed and then Ethel, Archie and Quentin.

Though he was the youngest, Quentin was the first to die in 1918, the death with honor due to the fallen World War One aviator. Heartbroken, his father would die within six months. During World War Two, Kermit died in Alaska in 1943, the self-inflicted nature of his fatal gunshot being kept from his failing mother. Ted went on to have a famous civic and military career, dying while on duty, a general in the fields of France in 1944.

In 1977, Ethel Roosevelt Derby passed away after a lifetime spent in the quiet service of others, from WWI nurse in France to civil rights advocate in her final decades. Archie passed in 1979. While he enjoyed a succesful business career in his later years, he spent his youth in service to his country, being the only American soldier, as a result of combat injuries, to be declared 100% disabled in both world wars. Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the last of the children to pass, in 1980, just after her 96th birthday.

Reflecting on Kermit's birthday, I'm so very impressed with the strength and depth in the man. In both of the World Wars, he volunteered for duty with the British forces to get into the war sooner. Kermit spent many months hunting with his father in Africa in 1909 and 1910 and exploring the Amazon in 1913 and 1914. A decade after their father's death, Ted and Kermit had a tremendous hunting adventure in the steppes of Mongolia.

Celebrating a Roosevelt birthday, I pause to celebrate my father's birthday, like Kermit, October 10th. I'm not my father's oldest son, but, like Kermit, I've been blessed to join him on some special adventures. He has inspired me to follow my dreams, as an entertainer and a public servant. For a good time, visit

Sunday, September 14, 2008

President Theodore Roosevelt

On September 14, 1901, at 2:15 A.M., President McKinley died at the Milburne House in Buffalo, New York. Theodore Roosevelt, aboard a horse drawn buckboard carriage, speeding through a dark and rainy night on the rutted dirt road between Tahawus Hunt Club and Aiden Lair, was now the President.

At the train depot in North Creek, shortly after 5:00 A.M., Roosevelt’s secretary, William Loeb, handed TR the telegram from Secretary of State John Hay, informing him of the President’s death. TR jumped immediately up the steps of the special train waiting to take him down the Delaware and Hudson Railroad to Albany and thence to Buffalo. That afternoon, in the Ansley Wilcox Mansion, Judge Hazel administered the Presidential oath of office.

Today, the Wilcox Mansion is a National Historic Site, administered by staff and volunteers dedicated to the preservation of the special history housed there. Having concluded a very successful capital fund drive, the foundation which supports the site is now engaged in completing an extensive renovation and expansion of the Mansion and its new visitor center, fashioned in the architectural spirit of the carriage house once attendant to the property.

Having just visited and seen the tremendous work going on there, I highly recommend that you put the site on your itinerary during your next exploration of this beautiful country and her glorious history.

As the Theodore Roosevelt Association prepares to establish a Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Museum and Research Center in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, it bodes well for the TRA that the person at the helm is Barbara Berryman Brandt of Buffalo. As Chairman of the TRA, Mrs. Brandt is dedicated to seeing that a world class museum results. If past is prologue, she will see the job through in top order.

As a member of the Junior League of Buffalo, Mrs. Brandt was one of the many community leaders who originally saved the Wilcox Mansion from the wrecking ball. Today, she could use your help, not to save a building, but rather, to build one. The TR Museum will perpetuate the memory and the legacy of one of America’s finest men and greatest presidents, that future generations of Americans will know his values and be inspired to get in the arena in service to their fellow citizens. Your interest, support and donations are welcome at

As a postscript, it seems fitting to note that yesterday, September 13th, was the birthday of TR’s oldest son and namesake, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., born at Oyster Bay, Long Island, in 1887. The first child born to TR and his second wife, Edith, Ted would live a life of service, excelling in business, in politics and on the field of battle. Injured in World War I, Ted remained on duty in France through the end of the war. The war ended, Ted’s fellow officers wanted him to serve as the first president of what would become the American Legion. While he played a leading role in establishing the veteran’s organization, he declined the presidency, as he planned to enter New York state politics and wanted the group to thrive without being hindered by political opponents.

In WWII, Ted would return to lead soldiers ashore on D-Day in France, the only General officer to go to shore on that day. Ted died in France later that year of a heart attack. His body and that of his youngest brother, Quentin, killed in France in WWI, lay side by side at the American cemetery in Normandy, an ever living reminder that the Lion’s Pride, in the words of Quentin, did as their father would have them do. Today, Ted’s home, Old Orchard, built behind his father’s home at Sagamore Hill, is a museum, another of the many historic places calling for a visit from you and yours along this tremendous journey.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Treaty of Portsmouth

On the morning of September 6, 1905, two Russian diplomats, Sergius Witte and Baron Roman Rosen, left Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on a train bound for Boston. The citizenry of the region were out enmasse to bid the men fond farewell. On the previous afternoon, after nearly a month of negotiations, which nearly failed, the representatives of Imperial Japan and Czarist Russia concluded and signed a peace treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War.

Earlier, in the summer, the American President Theodore Roosevelt had invited the two nations to send emissaries to the United States to discuss ending the war which, on the battlefields of Manchuria and in the waters of the Yellow Sea, had bloodied the two nations badly. On August 5, T.R. bid the negotiating delegations welcome aboard the Presidential yacht, Mayflower.

For a month to follow the United States hosted the emissaries of the combatant nations, and, through back channels, influenced their negotiations to lead them to a successful conclusion. The Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, where the negotiations were held and Wentworth by the Sea, the beautiful resort where the delegations and the world’s press stayed, stand today as proud reminders of the role played in history by the good people of Portsmouth.

Through the Spanish American War the United States announced to the European and Asian powers that it was a military power with which to be reckoned. With the Treaty of Portsmouth, America now announced to the world that it had the influence and standing to be a great peacemaker, too.

For the Russians, the Treaty of Portsmouth brought an end to a war that had been so costly that in it were sown the seeds of the downfall of the centuries old reign of the czars. In 1905 alone, Russia had surrendered Port Arthur, been defeated at Mukden and seen the Russian Baltic Fleet decimated at the Battle of Tsushima. In its main parts, the treaty allowed the Russians to control the northern half of Sakhalin Island, but also forced Russia to surrender its lease at Port Arthur and to recognize a Japanese sphere of influence in Korea.

The Japanese negotiators included Foreign Minister Jutaro Komura, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and Kogoro Takahira, Japan’s Minister to the United States. Their negotiations were aided by Kentaro Kaneko, another graduate of Harvard Law and Henry W. Denison, a former American diplomat who served for over three decades as a legal advisor to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. It was Denison, working with the Russian diplomat Theodore de Martins, who drafted the Treaty.

Despite the favorable terms for Japan, the Treaty was greeted with disdain by many Japanese nationalists who desired financial indemnity and abhorred the loss of one half of Sakhalin. Riots broke out in Japan, where several people were killed and hundreds injured.

For his efforts to bring an end to the Russo-Japanese War, Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1906. Today, that prize hangs in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, along with T.R.’s Medal of Honor. It is said that the U.S. President often receives foreign dignitaries in the Roosevelt Room where these two awards display America’s resolve to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

In another time, T.R. wrote “Peace is a goddess with sword girt on thigh.” This is T.R.’s peace of righteousness. It is a true peace, worth the fight, for in it is the honor of our people and the preservation of our republic.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

St. Paul - Blessed are the Peacemakers

I had the most fascinating time in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Minnesota State Fair and the Republican National Convention.

It was on this date, September 2, 1901, that then Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, first implored his fellow Americans to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” and he said it at the Minnesota State Fair. Minnesotans know their history and they love their state fair, ranking second in state fair attendance behind Texas.

From late August through Labor Day, September 1st, I had a wonderful time welcoming fairgoers from throughout the country to the historic J.V. Bailey House, built on the fairgrounds in 1912. That same year marked T.R.’s final visit to the Minnesota State Fair. In that same year, Minnesota was one of five states to deliver electoral votes for T.R., the Bull Moose Progressive candidate.

I had a wonderful time performing for hours each day and had a great show at the Carousel Park stage on Sunday. The parents and kids were great.

Today, in downtown St. Paul, I had a wonderful time visiting with Republican delegates from throughout the nation, indeed, people from throughout the world. Yes, I met Democrats from throughout the country, too. You may not be surprised that I met some people who were from “way out there somewhere,” too.

I hope it doesn’t surprise or offend you that my Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the Republican National Convention and enjoyed endorsing John McCain on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and with various television, raido and print journalists from around the country.

Even while he was fighting the “malefactors of great wealth” for control of the Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican. While he ran as a Bull Moose Progressive in 1912, it was only after he succeeded in winning eleven of thirteen state contests held for the GOP nomination, including the primary in Taft’s home state of Ohio. Taft’s forces controlled, and in T.R.’s views stole, the 1912 nomination in Chicago. He and the Progressives were duty bound to make the effort to take the White House for the American people.

In 1916, T.R. refused the Progressive Party nomination for President, instead leading the Progressives to join him in endorsing Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes. When T.R. died in 1919, he was the leading candidate for the 1920 Republican nomination and he was seriously pursuing it.

So, as I portrayed T.R. and explained and defended my McCain button and my enthusiasm, I did so with a thorough appreciation for the issues and dynamics inherent in this election nearly a century hence. Like T.R., John McCain knows what it’s like to fight against corruption and big-moneyed special interests. Like T.R., John McCain not only knows the sacrifice of military service and combat, he understands that “the big stick” is an important diplomatic tool. We are at war, and I strongly believe that T.R. would be backing the Republican Navy combat veteran over the Democratic attorney.

Like me, T.R. would know that Senator Obama has been missing in action on the issue of public corruption in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois. The Chicago Democratic Machine under Richard Daley, Rod Blagojevich and Emil Jones, Jr. is nothing but the Tammany Hall Machine in another city in another century.

If you look to the title of today’s blog, you’ll see the name of the GOP Convention’s host city, St. Paul, and you’ll see an excerpt from St. Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. These words caught my eye at the Law Enforcement Memorial at the St. Paul Capitol grounds. In total the ninth verse of Matthew on the memorial is “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.” From police commissioner to Rough Rider to President, T.R. understood that making and keeping peace meant having the wisdom, courage and willingness to do battle, to use the “big stick” as a means of securing the peace.

This quotation was in stark contrast to the anarchists and provocateurs who attacked Republican delegates and smashed windows in St. Paul on Monday night.

President Theodore Roosevelt instructed us that every movement has its “lunatic fringe,” and those lunatics were in force at the anti-McCain demonstrations. History knows that T.R. was vilified by the ultra-pacifists, the socialists and the anarchists. Those same forces are opposed to Senator McCain and, in great part, supportive of the Democratic nominee.

In these circumstances, I was happy to show my enthusiasm for the candidacy of Senator John McCain, a man who calls T.R. his role model and a man I believe T.R. would have backed with enthusiasm.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Important Speech in Denver

This afternoon, the nation awaits both Senator Obama’s acceptance speech and the announcement of Senator John McCain’s GOP running mate. Much will be made of tonight’s climactic speech in Denver, Colorado, and commentators are noting that today, August 28th, is the 45th anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”

August 29th will be the anniversary of another famous speech, this one made in Denver in 1910 by former President Theodore Roosevelt. After spending a year in Africa and Europe, giving Taft time to grow into the Presidency, TR returned to the United States loaded for political bear. He was greatly disappointed by Taft’s reversal of TR’s conservation agenda and a very different approach to anti-trust litigation. TR toured the nation on behalf of Republican candidates for Congress and state offices. In Denver, he reiterated his balanced approach to the conservation of our natural resources.

“Conservation, as I use the term, does not mean nonuse or nondevelopment. It does not mean tying up the natural resources of the states. It means the utilization of these resources under such regulation and control as will prevent waste, extravagance, and monopoly; but at the same time, not merely promoting, but encouraging such use and development as will serve the interests of the people generally.” The New Nationalism, (Outlook, New York, 1910) p50

The two months ahead will be full of important speeches by the presidential nominees, by their running mates and supporters. Important debates will be held. America will decide on a new president. As Jenny and I head to the Minnesota State Fair and the Republican National Convention that follows, I am encouraged that both Senator Obama and Senator McCain mention Theodore Roosevelt as a model to follow.

Senator McCain has gone further in this regard, acknowledging TR as his hero. The New York Times, not surprisingly, writes that McCain falls short of the mark. I disagree and find much in Senator McCain’s record that recommends him as a Theodore Roosevelt Republican. I’ll follow up on these thoughts from the GOP Convention next week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Charge! Finishing the Great 2008 T.R. Tour

For the last six months, my wife, daughter and dog have joined me on a grand American adventure - a Theodore Roosevelt journey throughout the United States, performing as and paying homage to the Rough Rider President in celebration of his 150th year. We call it the Great 2008 TR Tour.

After enjoying a restful visit with Grandma in Sewanee, Tennessee, the T.R. Tour launches the home stretch, with a planned celebration in late October in T.R.’s hometown of Oyster Bay, Long Island.

Living in close quarters in a recreational vehicle and towing a small car for running around, we have travelled over 32,000 miles. We have entertained thousands of people and have been shown kindnesses by hundreds more. Family and friends have been amazing along the way.

We have made some T.R. performance or visit in thirty-four states, beginning our trek with a plan to visit the forty-eight continental states. The U.S. Navy commanded a performance in Honolulu, Hawaii, so the tour faces the big state question: When can we get to Alaska?
Either fifteen or sixteen states to go, hopefully all before T.R.’s birthday on October 27th.

Wonderfully, many places have quickly asked us back, so T.R. Joe is likely to take a second lap, returning home between performances as the ladies have made clear their desire to re-establish home base.

The TR Tour began on Presidents Day, February 18, 2008, with a performance at the Lyceum in Alexandria, Virginia followed by a delightful parade full of firefighters, scouts and soldiers.

We were quickly on to Boston and a visit with the curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library and Marblehead to perform for Tower School. On our return pilgrimage we visited T.R.’s New York City birthplace and the American Museum of Natural History, then Oyster Bay and Sagamore, the family home. We knelt in gratitude at the gravesites of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt on a hill in Young’s Cemetery.

Performances in Florida beckoned, and along the way, the Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area along Pine Knolls Shore, North Carolina called for adventure.


At Roswell, Georgia, the home of T.R.’s mother Mittie Bulloch, the grounds and buildings of Bulloch Hall still whisper the thrilling Southern stories Mittie and Aunt Susan told “Teedie” and his siblings. I stood where T.R.’s father, Theodore, and his mother, Martha, stood on December 22, 1853, taking their vows of marriage. Knelt where the Bulloch family knelt, the same Presbyterian church where Martha’s father died while teaching Sunday school. Our dinner show at J.Christopher’s was a smash. T.R. was half Southerner, and that half gave him much of his stuff as a man.

Soon after arriving in Florida we were visiting and celebrating Pelican Island, T.R.’s first bird sanctuary, regarded as the first National Wildlife Refuge. We camped in Tampa, Florida, home to the Plant Museum, in its day the finest hotel on the Florida Gulf Coast, host to the American Armed Forces as they mustered for the war with Spain in Cuba. Further south, we entertained amidst the charms of Sanibel’s Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and just beyond in Captiva, where TR hunted devil fish.


In Tennessee we celebrated the 150 years of the University of the South in Sewanee and celebrated Sewanee men who had joined T.R. in the arena: Presidential Aide Captain Archie Butt and future Surgeon General William Crawford Gorgas, who conquered Panama’s yellow fever.

In Hillsboro, Alabama, on the front porch of Pond Spring, the tour paid honor to General Joe Wheeler, the man who commanded volunteers in Cuba, and who thirty-three years earlier had been a general leading half of Lee’s cavalry.

In Mississippi, Onward marks the memory of T.R.’s famous refusal to shoot a wounded bear, birthplace of the teddy bear by most accounts. Beyond Onward we explored the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Complex with such evocative names as Holt Collier and Panther Swamp.

In Louisiana, we stopped by the McIlheney Company, home of Tabasco © It was Jack McIlheney, one of T.R.’s Rough Rider officers, who had T.R. down to hunt that bear. Great hot sauce to spice your game.

At Jacinto and the Alamo, we remembered those who lay down their lives for the Republic of Texas, among them, Davy Crockett. Was T.R. a fan of the King of the Wild Frontier? He named Boone & Crockett after his frontier heroes. At San Antonio’s historic Menger Hotel, TR came to life to the delight of guests from around the world, one hundred and ten years after having recruited Rough Riders there.


On to Oklahoma and the Witchita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge and Kansas where T.R.’s newspaper publishing friend William Allen White and T.R.’s New Nationalism have roots and stand in testimony of the Roosevelt legacy. Here in the West we were really in T.R. Territory, most of the Rough Riders hailing from Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, then Indian Territory and made a state during T.R’s administration. No surprise that towns like Roosevelt, Oklahoma are named for him, that vast tracks of public lands owe their care to his actions.

In New Mexico, the small town of Las Vegas has a fantastic municipal museum housing a great Rough Rider collection, the Rough Riders often gathering in the town park for their annual get-togethers in the decades after the Spanish American War. We certainly appreciated the Boy Scout Ranch at Cimarron, where generations of young men have followed in the scout tradition so fully embraced by TR, the BSA’s first and only “Chief Scout Citizen”.

In New Mexico, El Morro, and in Arizona, the Petrified Forest and Montezuma’s Castle announced the Monuments and Antiquities Act, the National Parks grew in number and expanse. Roosevelt Dam is aptly named for the executive who successfully pushed the Newlands Reclamation Act that dammed and irrigated the rivers of the West.

For the first time in my life, I witnessed the Grand Canyon and made at least one hike down its rocky switchbacks. We’d begun to live a much more vigorous life along the way quite appropriate as I portray the father of the Strenuous Life. When we went to sleep on a warm spring night on the southeastern rim, little did we expect to wake to six inches of snow.
Roosevelt Point on the North Rim would have to wait for another trip. The highways north were closed and we had Seattle and the U.S. Navy as a destination two short weeks away. Our dash across the Southwest was in full swing.

A visit to Nevada’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest was the first of many touchstone experiences with the United States Forest Service, established in 1905 with Gifford Pinchot at its head, such a cornerstone of T.R.’s conservation philosophy and, more importantly, the philosophy applied to action.

A performance in the auditorium and a visit to the library at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles put me in touch with the young men and women on the cusp of majority age, ready for national service, higher education or work and family. A tour of Yosemite National Park reached our very hearts and souls, stirring up images of T.R. camping beneath the stars with John Muir.

On to Seattle, Washington and the celebration of the centennial of the Great White Fleet’s visit. When T.R. sent the sixteen battleships around the world, it announced that the United States had arrived on the scene as a world power with a Navy to back up the claim. Speak softly and carry a big stick, indeed. The celebration by the Navy and the Navy League, a T.R. inspired group, gave us all a little time to pause and give thanks for the men and women who serve.

T.R. was the first to protect Mount Olympus, now Olympic Mountain National Park, and in one day we went from the snow capped peaks of Hurricane Ridge to the moss covered rain forest at Ho and the sunset at Ruby Beach on the Pacific Ocean. The people of Washington are safeguarding a great treasure and we were blessed to perform and make new friends along the way.

It was during this time that the r.v. had the first of its major repairs, and for a few nights we camped in the parking lot of the repair center in Olympia. The need for major break repairs became evident after a reckless driver forced me to slam on the brakes and kiss the concrete wall at fifty-five miles per hour and towing the car. When touring the country in an r.v., one is fairly guaranteed that not all of the adventures will be of the planned or pleasant variety. How thankful we were to avert a collision and that no one was hurt.

We visited Portland, Oregon and the tremendous Proctor statue of TR on horseback, bidding the state not goodbye but see you soon, as we dashed off to visit northeast Washington, the panhandle of Idaho, Montana and Yellowstone, Wyoming, before returning to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park.

Along the way, we had great adventures and a scary close call as a moving van tore through our car while Jenny was adding air to the tires in Idaho. The two week car repair in Spokane, Washington proceeded apace while we took the r.v. back and forth across the northern Rockies, hot on the T.R. trail.

No T.R. Tour could be complete without a visit to Boone and Crockett in Missoula, Montana, truly a shrine to the active pursuit of the conservation agenda, fueled still by the same love of nature known and practiced in that special way known only by outdoorsmen and hunters. In Yellowstone we enjoyed the hospitality of the Roosevelt Lodge and throughout the region we breathed in the vitality that is the mountain west. As we headed back to Crater Lake we visited more of the wildlife refuges, the first fifty-one of which have their genesis with T.R.

This blog began in Yellowstone on June 14, and a very imperfect record of our two months since begin there. I do want to fill in the holes and share stories. This much I know. The American people are a special people and this nation has a calling and a destiny, to know and act upon the higher principles so often articulated by Theodore Roosevelt and a long line of American patriots.

To get back on the road, to celebrate this heritage and to do what I might to inspire others to be the men and women in the arena, to adopt, as T.R. did, the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, not only for one’s own conduct but for the conduct of the community, this is something into which I run with great joy and fervor. I do so hope to bring T.R. to life sometime soon where you might see it, that you might laugh and think and wonder what you might do in the cause of a greater United States of America.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Edith Roosevelt

On August 6, 1861, Edith Kermit Carow was born in Norwich, Connecticut. Throughout her growing up years in New York City, she was the dear friend and frequent companion of the Roosevelt children at 28 East 20th Street. Teedie and Bamie along with Elliott and Corrine all loved Edith, their little friend. There is a famous photo of Lincoln’s funeral procession passing the Union Square New York home of Cornelius Roosevelt, T.R.’s grandfather. In the second floor window, one can make out the forms of young Theodore and his brother, Elliott. Friend Edith Carow had been locked in the closet by Teedie for her crying was annoying him.
Still, when the Roosevelt family left New York for their great tour of Europe, young Teedie cried for already missing his dear friend Edith.

These loving friends, Teedie and Edith, would be united in marriage from 1886 until T.R.’s death in 1919. They would have five children together, raising the sixth and eldest, Alice, daughter of T.R.’s deceased first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee.

On Edith’s birthday in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt spoke to the great Progressive Party National Convention in Chicago. “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord!” he famously shouts in this his “confession of faith” speech.

For nearly twenty-six years before this speech, Edith stood beside her husband as he lived a life of faith and action. When T.R. was Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Rough Rider, Governor, Vice-president and President, it was Edith who was making the Roosevelt household hum. When he was sworn in “in his own right” in 1905, his hand rested upon James 1:22 – “Be though not only hearers of the word, but doers of the word also.” The fellowship of the doers, indeed. Today is a good day to remember that throughout his public service career, at least since their concurrence in 1885 to marry the following year, T.R. had at his side a supportive, intelligent and principled partner, mother to his children, bearing his burdens, helping him to see the way.

As the Wiegand family arrives in New York State, I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Upstate places that were and always will be Teddy Roosevelt territory. Adirondacks here we come.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Great White Fleet in Hawaii

As I write this, I’ve just returned from Honolulu, Hawaii, there for the U. S. Navy’s celebration of the 1908 visit to Hawaii of the Great White Fleet. Coming in the wake of the tremendous Great White Fleet celebration in Seattle, Washington, it was an inspiring event. Admiral Robert Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Admiral Tim Alexander, Commander Naval Group Hawaii and Commander Naval Surface Group Mid Pacific were our hosts for this gala occasion and Secretary of the Navy Don Winter was our honored guest and speaker.

For me, it is always a very enjoyable undertaking to bring TR to life for an appreciative audience. To perform as Theodore Roosevelt for the men and women of the United States Navy and for their families is an honor, a privilege and an inspiration to be my best.

In 1907, two naval officers were sent to Sagamore Hill to brief President Roosevelt on contingency plans for the use of the Navy in case of war with Japan. The officers detailed a war plan where all of America’s Atlantic battleships would muster at Hampton Roads, Virginia, navigate the Straits of Magellan at the tip of South America, and join with supporting ships at San Francisco and then off to Hawaii and an eventual attack against Japan.

Historian James Reckner, author of Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, records that the officers were dumbfounded when TR embraced the plan and told the officers that he wanted them to carry out the plan as a training exercise soon as possible. In time, TR added that the fleet would continue to circumnavigate the world through the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to set the world on notice that the United States had arrived and was staking its claim to being a great naval power.

“With how many ships?” Reckner recounts the officers responding.

“With all of them!” says TR. “If there are fourteen battle ships ready, send fourteen; if sixteen are ready send sixteen!”

The Navy, the War Department and the Congress were also taken aback by Roosevelt’s orders. Some in Washington, D.C. officialdom thought that the plan would put our sailors and ships at great risk. Some in Congress were opposed to the cost, others simply opposed TR for being TR. Informed that Congressional opponents threatened to limit appropriations for the fleet, TR countered he had enough in the budget to send the fleet around to the Pacific. It would be up to Congress to supply the additional appropriations to bring them back. Obviously, Congressmen and Senators from the eastern seaboard were anxious to make sure the Atlantic fleet made it safely back to their home ports.

By all accounts, the voyage of the Great White Fleet was a resounding success. TR considered it the most important action he undertook for the promotion and preservation of peace. Steeped in the Washingtonian maxim that to prepare for war was the most effectual means of preserving peace, the voyage of the Great White Fleet was a fitting capstone to a public life devoted to a strong Navy.

As an undergraduate at Harvard, TR began work on what was to become his first book, A Naval History of the War of 1812. Published after his graduation from Harvard, the finished work was hailed on both sides of the Atlantic and included in the curriculums of both the US Naval Academy and the Royal Naval College. At nearly the same time, TR was encouraging his uncle, James Dunwoody Bulloch, to commit to writing the story only Bulloch could, The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, the tale of how the Confederate Navy was built, in great part, in Liverpool, England, under Bulloch’s direction.

As Undersecretary of the US Navy in 1897 and 1898, Theodore Roosevelt did as much as any man to get the US Navy into fighting shape for the war with Spain. Famous are the stories of TR, serving as acting secretary when Secretary Long was away from the office, telegramming naval commanders around the globe to get them ready to fight.

As President, TR did more than any of his predecessors to build up a strong, modern, world class Navy. The tonnage added was exceeded in importance only by the higher degree of performance and professionalism that TR inspired through the ranks of Naval officers and seamen. Plagued by decades of poor leadership, a tradition of desertions and really poor conditions for the mass of sailors, the Navy needed to be put right, and TR was the man to do so.

In our Seattle celebration of the Great White Fleet, our co-sponsor was the United States Navy League, founded in 1902 with the purpose of building and sustaining popular support for the United States Navy and her personnel. Would you be surprised to learn that TR was a driving force behind the Navy League?

For decades after his death in 1919, Navy Day was celebrated on TR’s birthday, October 27. (In 1949, Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday in May, was established to unify separate celebrations for individual branches of the U.S. military.) Still today, the mention of Theodore Roosevelt brings a welling up of good feeling in the hearts of the men and women of the United States Navy and the United Sates Navy League.

Yesterday, Friday, July 18th, we joined together to celebrate the centennial of the Hawaii visit of the Great White Fleet. We did so on board and alongside the U.S.S. Missouri memorial, a most fitting location. The original U.S.S. Missouri (BB-11) was a Connecticut class battleship and one of the sixteen that made the journey around the world. By World War II, BB-11 had been scrapped and was replaced by her namesake, an Iowa class, laid down in 1941 and launched in 1944. The U.S.S. Missouri (BB-63) saw duty at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. On September 2, 1945, General Douglass MacArthur, on behalf of the United States, accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanes Imperial government on the starboard deck of “Mighty Mo” in Tokyo Harbor. A giant coin marks the spot on the deck. In Korea, Mighty Mo’s big guns hurled 1,800 pound ordinance over 23 miles in defense of American and allied ground forces. The memorial is at Pearl Harbor and gives testimony to bravery and sacrifice of the U.S. Navy there on December 7, 1941. The Missouri stands resolute, saluting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial just of the bow.

So, despite TR’s gun boat diplomacy, despite his having shown Japan that we could do in peace time what we would be ready to do in wartime, we were eventually attacked by Imperial Japan and her mighty Navy and naval air force. By the time 1941 had come about, the United States had allowed its military preparedness to slip drastically. The good will born of TR’s efforts, of his Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 which ended the Russo-Japanese War with terms extremely favorable to Japan, was of little deterrent to Japan’s aggression. The visit of the U.S. fleet was perhaps long forgotten or little known by the young Japanese pilots who attacked on that early December morning.

Still, TR demanded, through the sailing of the Great White Fleet, that the world, and especially Japan, acknowledge that the Pacific was as much an American Ocean as was the Atlantic and that America would protect her interests there with as much dedication, resoluteness and courage as it advanced its interests in the ocean that lay between Boston and Britain.

It’s hard to summarize here how good it felt to be a part of the celebration, how inspired I felt as I brought T.R. to life beneath the mighty cannon on the foredeck. Earlier in the day, I had a chance to tour the U.S.S. Crommelin (FFG-37), Commander Kevin J. Parker, and to meet the sailors on board. Each and every one of those men are happy in their work and resolute to serve with the highest capacity. As dusk approached on the Missouri, the Crommelin and the U.S.S. Chafee (DDG 90), passed in review, salutes were exchanged and four F-18s from the carrier Kitty Hawk (CV 63) flew over from starboard to port, their diamond formation adding a capping jewel to a ceremony that started with a rainbow bursting forth from the afternoon showers. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day or a more moving tribute to the world’s greatest navy and her sailors.

Secretary Winter was in Hawaii in conjunction with the Pacific Fleet’s participation in Rim Pac or Rim of the Pacific joint Naval Maneuvers. Military forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom join the United States Third Fleet and the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps in joint training maneuvers that are surely in the cooperative spirit of the Great White Fleet. Vice-Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of the Third Fleet, took some time to join us at the celebration, as did guests from each of the participating nations.

Back home in Illinois, I’m amazed at what the men and women of the United States Navy are doing so that you and I might be free and live in peace. To each and every sailor and marine, to every airman and soldier, we owe a deep and unquenchable debt of gratitude. Go, Navy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Strenuous Life

“I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.”

Theodore Roosevelt – before the Hamilton Club of Chicago, April 10, 1899

This is one of several iterations of Theodore Roosevelt’s viewpoint on the Strenuous Life. Elsewhere, TR wrote that he embraced the Vigorous Life, suggested to him by a correspondent, as an improvement as a summary of the concept. Our trip around the country has been both Strenuous and Vigorous. Today, we begin month six and happily it’s a day that will find us home as a family for the first time since we left on February 16.

A highlight of our tour was this past weekend’s Strenuous Life Adventure hosted in Medora, North Dakota by the Theodore Roosevelt Association ( Known as the TRA, the association was founded in 1919 by family, friends and admirers of Theodore Roosevelt with the mission to preserve the memory and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, to encourage an appreciation for the life, thoughts, words, principles and actions of this great American. I’m delighted to be a member of the TRA, and I strongly encourage anyone who might read these words to join. As I explain to audiences, there is much that TR said that bears repeating, much for which TR fought that deserves championing today.

A highlight of the TRA activities is the annual meeting, usually held on a weekend proximate to TR’s October 27 birthday. This year, the meeting will be held in Oyster Bay, Long Island, October 24-26, and I hope you’ll consider joining Jenny, Sam and me as we celebrate TR’s 150th birthday.

This past weekend, the TRA’s Strenuous Life Weekend in North Dakota featured horse riding, gun shooting, lasso practice, hiking and branding. The weekend and this spring’s TRA Seattle event celebrating the centennial of the Great White Fleet herald a rejuvenation of the national organization that is occurring under the presidency of former Smithsonian officer, Jim Bruns and the chairmanship of Barbara Berryman Brandt. Both of these TRA events were spearheaded by TRA member Michele Bryant, she the wife of Capt. David Bryant, U.S. Navy Retired, the former commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy’s “Big Stick” aircraft carrier. Lt. Rebecca Rickey, U.S. Navy Retired, co-chaired the fun in Medora.

TRA membership is growing, local chapters are being formed and good works are being undertaken in the spirit of TR. It’s a pleasure for me to work with TRA Trustee Jim Pehta to establish a Chicago Bull Moose Chapter of the TRA. Jim is helping to lead a national campaign where thousands of Teddy Bears are being donated by TRA to dozens of children’s hospitals around the country. Nationally and in its local chapters, the TRA sponsors police awards, acknowledging TR’s history as President of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners and especially honoring our men and women in blue who carry the front line in the battle for America. The wonderful police tradition in Chicago deserves an annual TR award, too.

Jenny, Sam and I had a fantastic time in Medora, entertaining a luncheon at the Rough Rider Motel and recreating the barroom fight with the Mingusville Bully in the Iron Horse Saloon. Great fun. We have spent much of the last five months racing about the country in a mad dash to capture all the TR sites we possibly can. With all three of us a bit under the weather, it was good to rest a day or two, to ride horses, shoot guns and enjoy the camaraderie of our TRA friends.

At Medora we met Mrs. Harold Schafer whose late husband is responsible for the vision of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Sheila Schafer and her staff were tremendously kind and gracious, sharing that Medora hospitality that has made the town a destination for families from throughout the world for decades.

As I write this, we are leaving Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where we just visited the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee. The hotel is at the southwest corner of Kilbourne and 3rd Streets and it stands where the Hotel Gilpatrick stood in 1912. In the Hyatt’s lobby a plaque marks the spot where John Schrank shot TR in the chest with a .38 caliber pistol from close range on October 14, 1912. The plaque was sponsored by the Wisconsin Veterans of the Spanish War and is surrounded by photos and newspaper facsimilies recounting the dreadful event. TR famously refused medical attention and demanded to go to the nearby auditorium where some 2000 men and women were waiting to hear him speak.

“It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” TR famously told the shocked audience. TR spoke for nearly eighty minutes. Later that night doctors x-rayed the president and decided to leave the bullet in his chest. The bullet had pierced his sixty page folded speech and his steel eye glass case.

“I don’t care a rap for being shot!” He told the crowd that the Progressive campaign was not about himself, but rather about the Progressive cause, especially the need to ease the burden of the working man and especially to ease the burden of women and children.

Can any of us imagine such a man today? I share with audiences that TR, being a hunter, spit into his hand, and seeing no blood in his spittle had concluded that his lung had not been punctured and that he had the duty, like the duty of an officer for his regiment, to see the thing through that night.

As we celebrate our homecoming, as we look back on our adventures of the first five months, and as we look forward to the adventures to come, I am doubly inspired by the man who preached and lived the Strenuous Life. He fought for righteousness with everything he had and more. He inspired a generation of Americans to act not only in their own self interest and in the interest of their families, but to care for their neighbor and for the welfare of those who bore the heavy burdens of a hard life.

As a week or more has passed since last I wrote, I want to pause and acknowledge the anniversaries of the deaths of two of TR’s four boys. On July 12, 1944, General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. – “Ted” – died of a heart attack while serving in combat in France. On June 6, 1944, General Roosevelt, TR’s oldest boy, was the only general officer to go ashore on D-Day, leading his troops at Omaha Beach, returning to the beach to lead wave after wave of men to the front, directing men with his cane. Twenty-six years before, on July 14, 1918, Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest boy and an Army Aviator, was shot down and killed over the Marne in France. Today, the brothers lie side by side in the American cemetery in Normandy, a testimony to a nation and a family that believed in fighting and sacrificing for the sake of righteousness.

God bless and keep all the men and women who serve in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and his children. Our nation and the people of the world owe them a debt which we can only hope to repay in some small way by living a Strenuous Life, dedicated to carry on that fight.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Jenny & Mittie

Today was a beautiful day in Medora, North Dakota. We’re camped at the Medora Campground, where I spent much of the day on my back beneath the RV, finishing repairs to a set of copper liquid propane pipes which had been torn through by a blown out tire. Too much of this trip has been spent awaiting repairs at various service departments, so I decided that this repair was all mine. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are ingrained traits of the Westerner. It felt good to get greasy and grimy and to do the work of cutting, sizing, fitting and soldering beneath our home on wheels.

Jenny took the late afternoon of this her 44th birthday to play a round of golf at Medora’s Bully Pulpit Golf Course. What a treat and a surprise to learn that greens fees are gratus on ones birthday. Jenny spent what she would have spent on greens fees in the Bully Pulpit gift shop, and I must admit she picked out a handsome shirt for me and a great sweater for herself. Sam got to drive the golf cart.

When I cleaned up from the repair work, Faith and I went swimming in the Little Missouri River. The girls returned to the campground and we all went out for dinner. Beef – it’s what’s for dinner in Medora.

July 8th is also the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, known to her family as Mittie. Born in 1835 at Miss Oakes Boarding House in Hartford, Connecticut, her birthplace was rather incongruous with the thoroughly Southern character of the Bulloch clan. Mittie’s mother, Martha Stewart Bulloch was in Connecticut visiting her step-son, James Dunwoody Bulloch, a student at a nearby military academy.

In her eighteenth year, Mittie married TR’s father, Theodore Roosevelt, in the family home in Roswell. Life in New York was made more pleasant for Mittie when her mother and older sister Anna came to live with the Roosevelt family in the New York home at 28 East 20th Street. The Bullochs were among the founding families of Roswell, Georgia, and as the Great Civil War approached, the Bullochs, every one of them, were full square behind the Confederacy. “Uncle Jimmy” would go on to build much of the Confederate fleet in Liverpool, England.

TR was greatly influenced by his Southern kin. Historians and family alike have attributed to TR’s Southern lineage his energy, his sense of adventure and daring. “He was more a Bulloch than a Roosevelt,” can be read directly and between the lines of many a contemporary account.

So, on the 8th of July, here’s to Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt and Jenny Cook Wiegand. Happy birthday.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Cowboy President

We’re travelling through the Badlands of the Dakotas, territory that from 1883 until 1887 figures very prominently in the life of Theodore Roosevelt. Still today, the vast openness of the land and its ability to produce grass and hay makes it great cattle country, and the world’s appetite for beef is greatly appreciated in these parts. With miles and miles between the herds, one’s mind is like to wander in the plush blankets of green and yellow fields.

The rush to the Dakotas, to invest in cattle followed on those of the gold rush. Texas cattlemen had driven herds northward and discovered the region suitable for open range cattle. Cattle ranching is still a major enterprise here.

When TR came West in 1883, it was not only to hunt and seek adventure. It was to know the heat and dust of the day working in the saddle and the wet, cold of nights keeping watch or rounding up a herd stampeded by lightning. It was to be a rancher and a businessman, with capital invested and at risk. Eventually, he would fold the cattle operation after it was decimated by a winter of storm and cold extreme even in Dakota terms.

Like much of the West, the history of the Dakotas is one of confrontation between the westward expansion of American, Christian culture and that of the native people, in this case the Sioux. By treaty, the Sioux had been granted a reservation in exchange for peace. After George Custer’s exploration party discovered gold in 1874 on French Creek, the U.S. government sought to pressure the Sioux into relinquishing gold rich lands. War followed. The confrontation eventually took Custer’s life, hundreds of soldiers and settlers and thousands of Sioux men, women and children.

All of this was just a few short years before TR’s coming to the Dakotas to stake his claim, in cattle not gold. TR’s own experience of Native American life informed his efforts as a federal officer, both as Civil Service Commissioner and later as President. Whole volumes could and have been written about TR and the issues of the native people. Their contemplation is worthy.

The prosperity brought by gold mines, cattle operations and more made the region a destination for settlers and commerce. Today, the history and wonders of the region draw families to enjoy it. Tourism around the Mt. Rushmore National Monument in Keystone is now the lifeblood of the region. Likely Mt. Rushmore tourists add on additional trips to many of the other amazing places nearby. Our own adventures included Wind Cave National Park, Devils Tower National Monument and beautiful portions of the Black Hills Forest, all important works in the TR administration. Unfortunately, we missed the opportunity to see nearby Jewel Cave another TR National Monument created in 1908.

A highlight of yesterday’s tour was a visit to Belle Fourche Reservoir, being named for the river that to the southwest flows through the town by the same name. Belle Fourche itself was founded by TR’s friend, Seth Bullock. Built in 1904-1911, the dam and reservoir were part of TR’s reclamation agenda. The resulting bird sanctuary fell into the pattern of TR’s administration: a dam was built and a reservoir created under the Newlands Act; wildlife, especially birds, discover the new oasis and then, TR, by executive order would create a bird reserve or wildlife sanctuary incorporating the reservoir and the land surrounding the reservoir.

Human activities at these reservoirs and refuges are limited and regulated, though to this day many of these facilities allow fishing, hunting and boating, good, healthy outdoor activities of which TR would think fondly, I think. This particular dam and reservoir are in the operations of the federal Bureau of Reclamation under the authority of the Department of the Interior. The South Dakota State Parks administer the surrounding park and on Saturday, July 5, human uses of fishing and boating drove much of the birdlife into the bushes.

While the Wiegands stretched their legs on the Tower and Red Bud Trails that circumnavigate the base of Devils Tower, our golden retriever Faith had been several days without a good run or swim. Dogs are prohibited on the trails of nearly every national monument and park that we have visited. At least some of the wildlife refuges allow dog training and hunting with dogs, so Faith occasionally hikes or swims on these visits. We played fetch the stick along the western shore of the lake, anglers on the shore to our south and big power boats towing inner tubes loaded with thrill seekers in the middle of the lake. A good dozen throws or more and Faith has gotten to use her muscles and cool her coat.

We’ve just crossed into North Dakota on Highway 85, ready for a week of TR activities, highlighted by the Theodore Roosevelt Association Strenuous Life Weekend As we visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park and many other North Dakota places, we give thanks for the cowboy culture. It made a big impact on Theodore Roosevelt and he, in turn, made a lasting impact on the American people. We are so very glad to be in Teddy Roosevelt’s Badlands, celebrating America’s one true cowboy President.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

All of us on the TR Tour hope your 4th of July finds you with family and friends, able to pause and give thanks for the blessing of freedom in this great land.

We leave in the morning for Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and then on the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

The transmission is fixed. We leave the Mt. Rushmore and Black Hills region rested and inspired by our friends, Jim and Tina.

I look forward to writing from the road. All the best. TR Joe

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Hero of San Juan & His Friend from Deadwood

On July 1, 1898, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, commanding officer of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry led the charge up Kettle Hill outside Santiago, Cuba. Aboard his steed, Texas, T.R. led his men, and the men of other units, in an assault that drove the Spanish troops from the entrenchments atop the hill. Pausing only briefly, T.R. led a second charge to support the flank of U.S. troops advancing on a neighboring height. Casualties were heavy for the Rough Riders. By the time the battles of Cuba ended in the following days, the Rough Riders had accumulated casualties, killed or wounded, of fully twenty percent of the enlisted men and thirty percent of the officers.

Today, we began our day with the Lead-Deadwood American Legion Wooden Bat Baseball Tournament in Deadwood, hometown of Captain Seth Bullock. Bullock was a T.R. friend and compatriot, one of Grigsby's Cowboy Regiment who spent the war training in Louisiana, preparing for a next phase of the war that never was needed. Inspired by the national past time, Jenny and Sam joined me for a hike up nearby Mt. Roosevelt, where on July 4, 1919, Seth Bullock and the Black Hills Pioneer Society erected the first posthumous memorial to Theodore Roosevelt, less than six months after his death.

The rocky path leads to the old stone tower which rises above the Black Hills Forest. Made of red rock and mortar, the tower is on the order of twenty feet or more high and perhaps twenty feet in circumference at its base. Reminding one of Roosevelt, the tower sits stout and strong atop a five foot pedestal. The entrance to the tower is gated, though the bottom six inches of three iron bars have been removed and a burrow leads into the old concrete stairway.

The interpretive legend nearby reminds us that the view to the north is of land where Billings County Deputy Sheriff Theodore Roosevelt first met Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock in 1884, and beyond, where rancher Roosevelt worked beside his men on the Chimney Butte and Elk Horn Ranches. The memorial is posted locally as Friendship Monument, and it is certain that the friendship memorialized is that of TR and Bullock, though TR friend General Leonard Wood was also present at the dedication. On another level, the tower is a monument to the friendship shared between TR and the American people. Forged in the battle for the right and based on a mutual belief that the welfare of individual citizens counted for something and that government could get good things done for the prosperity of the people, the conservation and wise management of our natural resources and the peace and advancement of the nation.

For Roosevelt & Bullock and for the American people, it is fitting that a deliberate ascent into the wild is required to visit the memorial. More than a decade earlier, while a Territorial Senator in Montana in 1871 and 1872, Bullock played an important role in the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In 1901, when McKinley was President and Roosevelt Vice-President, Bullock was appointed the first forest supervisor for the Black Hills Forest Reserve. The men shared a great respect for the world of the out of doors, for the hunt and the adventure of open spaces.

Our next Deadwood ascent was Mt. Moriah and the cemetery there, resting place of Seth Bullock, Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane. Seth Bullock died just nine short months after his friend, Theodore Roosevelt. Bullock’s Mt. Moriah resting place had a view of the Roosevelt Tower, now obscured by mature pine.

The friendship of Seth Bullock and Theodore Roosevelt lasted through decades. Roosevelt children and cousins stayed with Bullock when visiting South Dakota. Bullock brought a troop of cowboys, including Tom Mix, to TR's 1905 inauguration, all riding in the parade on horseback with wild west attire and side irons, staging a rodeo in the nation’s capital before departing.

Bullock served as the U.S. Marshall for South Dakota during the Roosevelt Administration. At its end, when TR’s tennis cabinet met for a luncheon at the White House for the last time in 1909, Seth Bullock was the man to cast the flowered center piece aside to surprise President Roosevelt with a beautiful bronze cougar.

Bullock was an enterprising businessman, a founder of the community of Belle Fourche and a man of solid virtue and courage. He was a TR kind of man.

While our transmission is being fixed in Rapid City, we’ve lodged with Deadwood’s best landscaper, Sewanee friend Jim Startz, his beautiful bride Tina and their boys. Jim coaches two of his sons in baseball and presides over the town's organized youth baseball program. The boys who play learn leadership, teamwork and responsibility. Several of the youngsters work for Startz & Startz Landscaping, learning crafts like masonry and skills with machinery in addition to things botanical.

Just as Seth Bullock made a great host to TR a century before, Jim and Tina have been awesome hosts in Deadwood. Finally, it was awesome to meet singer, comedian and first person reprisor Gordy Pratt, whose Seth Bullock portrayals have been entertaining Deadwood visitors for years. Check out

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

June into July

Every year, late June is an exciting time for me. Ever since 1987, the 27th of June has been special as Jenny’s and my wedding anniversary. This year, we celebrated the night before with my sister, Joy, in Colorado Springs, and the night of with Jenny’s cousin Chris French and his wife, Gail, in Denver. The fun, the food and the fellowship were greatly appreciated.

The past week has been a great adventure, bringing us from Idaho through Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska. The highlights are listed on the TR Tour button at

One feels a tremendous modern day resonance with TR the hunter and the conservationist throughout this range. The National Forests, even one named for Theodore Roosevelt himself, attest to this living legacy. I was most glad to see that, on the particular Saturday that I visited TR’s name sake forest, it was brimming with outdoor enthusiasts, bicyclists and countless white water kayakers. A dozen school buses brought boatloads of adventurers, paddles in hand, thrilled to be guided down the boiling waters of the Poudre River. More so than any other place on our Great 2008 TR Tour, the Roosevelt National Forest evidenced the vigorous life. Here was the use of a great public resource by the public for strenuous outdoor exercise. Again, I think President Roosevelt would have enjoyed seeing such a sight nearly as much as he would have enjoyed risking the rapids himself.

Late June was often an exciting time in TR history as well. On June 27, 1900, Vice-Presidential nominee Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Senator Mark Hanna, the GOP boss, “I am strong as a bull moose and you may use me to the limit.” On June 28, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Isthmian Canal Act, allowing the executive to negotiate with the Columbian government and to secure the rights from the French for the completion of a canal in the Columbian province of Panama. Dynamics inherent in the issue would lead to Panamanian independence and bold American action to see the thing through.

On June 29, 1906, TR signed the Hepburn Act, creating the Interstate Commerce Commission and on the same date in 1906, he signed the Pure Food and Drug Act and legislation creating federal meat inspection. These are hallmarks of TR’s progressive domestic agenda.

Earlier, on June 30, 1898, TR received his battlefield promotion. Colonel Leonard Wood, the original commanding officer of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, was promoted to command of the brigade and the rank of Brigadier General. While lobbying to go to war, TR requested that Wood receive command of the regiment, thinking that he himself would be fit for battle command after a short time in the front. Well, with less than ten days on the ground and at the front, TR got his wish. He was now the commanding officer of the Rough Riders. The next day, he would lead his regiment and various men from others in the famous assault on Kettle Hill and the neighboring San Juan Heights.

So, as the Wiegand clan tours Wind Cave National Park, watching the deer and the antelope and the buffalo play, we give thanks for the safe travel that brings us to TR’s beloved Dakotas.

Of course, the transmission just stopped working and we’re pulled over on the side of beautiful Highway 87 – Iron Mountain Road – South Dakota, just outside the scenic and very helpful Black Hills Playhouse.

Anybody know a good tow company?

All the best from TR Joe and his fellow adventurers.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Rough Riders Go Ashore in Cuba and the Rough Rider Legacy Lives on

On this day, June 22, 1898, the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry went ashore at Daiquiri, on the southeastern tip of Cuba, east of Santiago de Cuba, the strategic port city of Spain’s colony and harbor to the Spanish Fleet. With limited transport, the Rough Riders had been ordered to leave the enlisted men’s horses and one third of the troopers behind in Tampa.

The transport ship Yucatan launched its wooden boats loaded with the remaining Rough Riders toward the rickety steel and wood structure that made the claim of dock at the remote landing site. The landing force encountered no resistance, but the swell of the sea. One of Theodore Roosevelt’s two horses “Rain in the Face,” was killed being unloaded. “Texas,” outlasted the action in Cuba to join T.R. at Sagamore and the White House.

Here’s the action at Daiquari in T.R.’s own words.

“There was plenty of excitement to the landing. In the first place, the smaller war-vessels shelled Daiquiri, so as to dislodge any Spaniards who might be lurking in the neighborhood, and also shelled other places along the coast, to keep the enemy puzzled as to our intentions. Then, the surf was high, and the landing difficult; so that the task of getting the men, the ammunition and the provisions ashore was not easy. Each man carried three days’ field rations and a hundred rounds of ammunition. Our regiment had accumulated two rapid-fire Colt automatic guns, the gift of Stevens, Kane, Tiffany, and one or two others of the New York men, and also a dynamite gun, under the immediate charge of Sergeant Borrowe. To get these, and especially the last, ashore, involved no little work and hazard. Meanwhile from another transport, our horses were being landed, together with the mules, by the simple process of throwing them overboard and letting them swim ashore, if they could. Both of Wood’s got safely through. One of mine was drowned. The other, little Texas, got ashore alright. While I was superintending the landing at the ruined dock, with Bucky O’Neill, a boatful of colored infantry soldiers capsized, and two of the men went to the bottom; Bucky O’Neill plunging in, in full uniform, to save them, but in vain.”
(The Rough Riders – Theodore Roosevelt – 1899)

As we remember the Rough Riders in Cuba, I pause to say thanks to all of the amazing people we’ve met at places in America that keep the Rough Rider legacy alive. Here are a few, with more to come in the months ahead:

By far, the most impressive collection of Rough Rider artifacts that we have seen to date are enshrined at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site in New York City. At the birthplace, one can walk back in time, and, if listening closely, hear the battle in its horrific glory. Ranger Amato and his staff are a national treasure, too!

We expect that Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt home on Long Island, will display some treasures as well. Our visit in February was on a Monday, a day when the historic Oyster Bay home is closed, though the grounds are open. Perhaps you might like to be in Oyster Bay in late October, when the entire community will celebrate TR’s 150th birthday. Check out

Gianna Russo was a gracious host at the Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa, Florida. Now a part of Tampa University, the old Plant Hotel is where one journalist wrote before the Army sailed for Cuba that the U.S. had an army of occupation and it was occupying the front porch of a grand hotel in Florida.

Ray & Gerry Coffey and Melissa Beasley hosted a service day at Pond Spring, the home of Gen. Joseph Wheeler near Hillsboro, Alabama. Joe Wheeler, a veteran of Lee’s Confederate command, led the cavalry in Cuba and was instrumental in getting the Rough Riders into action. The Coffeys invited us to their beautiful home, an old school house and shared refreshments and insight. Delightful!

In San Antonio, Texas, we enjoyed the hospitality, tour and stories shared by Ernesto Malacara of the Menger Hotel, across the street from the Alamo, a place overflowing with T.R. and Rough Rider history and lore

San Antonio was a “two-fer” for who could pass up the Ft. Sam Houston Military Museum, a fantastic display of a century and a half of national service and sacrifice run capably and shared generously and enthusiastically by John Manguso and Jacqueline Davis

Most of T.R.’s Rough Riders were men from New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma and the Indian Territory. Throughout our time in the Southwest, the legacy of the Rough Riders was always near. In Las Vegas, New Mexico, Linda Gegick has a gem of a municipal museum with what is likely the largest Rough Rider memorabilia collection in the world.

Finally, a trip to Prescott, Arizona, where Mayor Buckey O’Neill rallied the men of Arizona Territory to enlist with him and get to the front lines in Cuba. Captain O’Neill commanded Troop A, overwhelmingly horse and rifle men from Arizona and New Mexico with a sprinkling of T.R.’s friends from New York, Massachusetts and Chicago tossed in. O’Neill was killed by a Spanish bullet right before Roosevelt led the first charge up Kettle Hill on July 1, 1898. In his hometown of Prescott, Arizona, a splendid Rough Rider memorial graces the north lawn of the Yavapai County Courthouse. Nearby, history is kept alive at the Sharlot Hall Museum by the talented director, John Langellier, a re-enactor himself.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are certainly tremendous places to visit to learn more about the enthusiasm with which men sacrificed their lives that the people of Cuba might throw off Spanish chains and that the United States might claim greater dominion for the cause of Liberty in the Western Hemisphere.

One hundred and ten years ago today, two men in the 10th Cavalry died by drowning at Daiquiri. Risking his own life, Captain Buckey O’Neill dove in the surf in a vain attempt to save Private John English of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Corporal Edward Cobb of Richmond, Virginia. It mattered not to this son of Irish immigrants that the soldiers he was trying to save were colored or Negro troopers. They were brothers in arms and men for whom risking one’s own life was the right thing to do. We remember them, and a hero named Buckey O’Neill today.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Theodore Roosevelt - Candidate for Vice-President of the United States

On June 21, 1900, Theodore Roosevelt was nominated by the National Republican Convention to join President McKinley as the Vice-Presidential candidate on the G.O.P. ticket. His rise to national prominence had indeed been meteoric.

Theodore Roosevelt vaulted to national fame two years before as the Hero of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. A thirty-nine year old father of six, his youngest newly born, T.R. demanded an opportunity to lead men on the front lines in Cuba, resigning his post as the provocative Undersecretary of the Navy. The 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry – Roosevelt’s Rough Riders – followed him up Kettle Hill and the San Juan Heights, and the clamber of New York Republicans soon followed him when that “splendid little war” was quickly over. In the fall of 1898, T.R. was nominated and elected Governor of New York.

For his political independence, his dedication to the eradication of corruption and his pushing a progressive agenda on regulation and taxation, T.R. was on the outs with Senator Thomas Collier Platt, the New York Republican boss. With Vice-President Garret Hobart dying in office in 1899, Platt saw the way clear to add a war hero to the Republican ticket while ridding himself of the reform governor.

At the Republican convention in Philadelphia, Platt secured Roosevelt a unanimous nomination; except one vote…Roosevelt’s own. “I would rather be a history professor,” said Roosevelt of the Vice-Presidential opportunity. Once nominated, he considered it his duty to campaign with all his might. With William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson on the Democratic ticket, the election certainly wasn’t assured. “Use me to your fullest,” wrote the forty-one year old T.R. to the Republican leadership. In the four and a half months that followed T.R. travelled over 21,000 miles by rail, making several speeches a day. Meanwhile, citizens and voters travelled to Canton, Ohio, where President McKinley campaigned on his front porch. McKinley and T.R. were elected. On the eve of Roosevelt’s nomination, McKinley’s political mentor, Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, Chairman of the Republican National Committee forebodingly told Republican associates, “Don’t you realize that there’s only one life between this madman and the Presidency?”

With regards to the Wiegand family's 2008 T.R. Tour commemorating Theodore Roosevelt’s 150th birthday, we have logged nearly 20,000 miles ourselves as we celebrate the great Rough Rider President. From Chicago, to D.C. to Boston and New York, from Roswell to Tampa, New Orleans and San Antonio, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite to Seattle to Yellowstone to Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Parks, we have seen this beautiful country, reluctant to shrug off its winter mantle, now embracing the late spring and early summer with its usual vigor and beautiful surprise.

Today, we go back a way we came. While some of our tour has recalled Grapes of Wrath, the current leg’s Steinbeckian theme reminds us that “best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.” Twelve days ago, while filling air in the Saturn’s front tire, Jenny leapt for her life as a moving van slowly tore through the tire and front quarter panel where she worked away. Less you think me a heathen, I had just separately finished draining the RV’s waste tanks. With a Herculean effort, we’ve made good our way while the Saturn has been undergoing repairs in Spokane.

As we retrace some miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and more, we are thankful that Jenny was unhurt and that stuff can be fixed. As we pushed through an amazing itinerary, I found myself thinking about the pace at which Theodore Roosevelt drove himself and the volume of work he got done. It reminds me, as we charge ahead up a hill of my own making, to value all that Jenny and Sam do to keep the T.R. Tour on pace.

As we arrived quite late to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California, we set up our tent and gathered kindling by the light of the stars and the new moon. We toasted marshmallows and built ‘smores. We laughed. At the end of a long wisp, my marshmallow caught fire and I wiggled the treat with the intent of blowing out the flame. When the flame persisted, I wiggled my stick some more and more vigorously so. Half of the molten marshmallow, still aflame, catapulted across the fire pit and onto Jenny’s “it’s-chilly-in-the-mountains” bedtime sweatpants. As she danced a fire dance, we all broke out in laughter, a little mad from the road and the race to capture yet another experience at another legacy spot of Theodore Roosevelt’s. She put the flames out quickly, and I sat amazed at this woman who shares my passion, who home schools our daughter with patience, who drives an RV through mountain roads while I make a record of a journey. Thank God for family.