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.


Hope Tarr said...

Hi There Joe,

Fabulous performance on Sunday in TR's NYC birthplace and yes, first stomping grounds. Enjoyed the clip of your White House "gig."

Hope to see you all on your next return tour.


T.R. Joe said...

Hope -

What a treat. I could see your smile all the way across the room. It meant the world for Jenny to share the weekend with a friend who knows the adventurous life. Dreams do come true. Love from all the Wiegands.