Monday, January 12, 2009

The Great Man and the Grand Canyon

On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon National Monument. TR saw the Grand Canyon for the first time in 1903, when he spoke these words:

"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country - to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.

I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.

Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. You can only mar it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.

We have gotten past the stage. my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children's children will get the benefit of it."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Old Lion is Dead

In the early morning hours of January 6, 1919, Theodore Roosevelt died in his bed, at his home, his beloved Sagamore, in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.

Since his youngest son, Quentin, had been shot down and killed in a dog fight over the Marne River in France on July 14, 1918, life had taken its toll on the Old Lion. For weeks that late fall and early winter he had been in hospital, convalescing in part from a return of his malarial infections.

On January 5, he rested while working at his family home. He read and dictated letters, reworked a magazine article and an editorial, and reviewed the book of a friend. Toward evening he told Edith, “I wonder if you will ever know how much I love Sagamore Hill.”

At his bedside that night, he made some notes intended for the instruction of the Republican national Committee Chairman who was working to bring TR back as the GOP presidential candidate in 1920.

“James, please put out the light,” were TR’s last words, spoken to his loyal valet at midnight. James awoke from his bedside chair to witness TR’s death rattle at 4:00 A.M. A coronary embolism in his life-long weak heart was the fatal blow.

Archie, sent home with severe injuries from the war in Europe, cabled his brothers in Germany, “The Old Lion is dead.”

On this, the 90th anniversary of the death of Theodore Roosevelt, on the Feast of the Epiphany, I offer a prayer of thanks for the life and the service of a great American. May we all take some courage from his example.