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.

No comments: