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.