Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March 4, 1909 - TR's last day as President

This is it. The final day celebrating the centennial of TR's Presidency. On this day one hundred years ago, William Howard Taft took the oath of office as our 27th President. The Roosevelt Administration was over. The Roosevelt Era was still at hand.

Weeks later, TR and Kermit were hunting in Africa. A year later, TR and Edith were touring Europe where great crowds came out to meet and listen to the Cowboy President. TR accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1906 for settling the Russo-Japanese War with Treaty of Portsmouth the previous year and made his Man in the Arena Speech (Citizenship in a Republic) at the Sorbonne.

Throughout 1910, TR toured the United States, promoting his viewpoints and his favorite candidates. Republicans lost the Congress that November and the split between TR and Taft widened. By 1911, TR and Taft were at such odds that a Republican Primary contest was in the works. The 1912 contests for the Republican nomination and the TR versus Taft versus Wilson general election came to pass. The publication of an autobiography and the beginning of an exploration of an uncharted Amazonian river followed in 1913 and 1914.

The year that saw Europe explode, first saw the waters and ships flowing through TR's Panama Canal. Certainly, TR would have wished to be at the helm when the canal and the navy were poised to play such an important part in the war to come. Instead, Wilson worked his way to re-election with the yellow phrase - "He kept us out of war."

TR criticized the Wilson Administration, especially regarding its lack of war preparedness. When war finally came, Wilson refused to appoint Roosevelt to command the four volunteer cavalry regiments authorized by Congress. "It is rather up to us to do what father preaches," said his youngest, Quentin, destined to die in the air above the French River Marne.

After his presidency, preaching a New Nationalism and a thorough devotion to victory over Germany, TR strode mightily for another decade across the America he loved, passing in his sleep on Epihany Day, January 6, 1919. He like his beloved people at peace after the long battle.

His great American journey of sixty years certainly inspired our family journey of the past 13 months. We have travelled the fifty states. I have brought TR to life from TR's birthplace to the White House, from Olympic National Park to Key West National Wildlife Refuge, from the USS Missouri anchored at Pearl Harbor to Katahdin, highest point in Maine and hundreds of beautiful and interesting places in between.

The weeks ahead will take me and sometimes my girls to Florida, North Carolina, New York and beyond. I hope that I can bring TR to life for you and yours someday soon. On this the day when we remember the seven and a half years that he wielded the Big Stick as president, I give thanks for all that was Theodore Roosevelt and all that is his legacy for the people of the world.

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