Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saluting Theodore Roosevelt in Medora, North Dakota

As 2011 ends, I look back on more than four years of travelling the country, studying TR and bringing him to life for audiences. It has been an experience filled with blessings. I’m thankful for a loving and supportive family that has joined me on much of this adventure.

As 2012, begins, I’m thankful that so many of my friends, colleagues and customers have embraced what I’m doing. In 2012, we will celebrate the centennial of TR’s 1912 effort, first to win the Republican nomination for president and then to win the presidency as the nominee of the Progressive Party.

I’m thankful that the centennial year will find me performing throughout the country, from Maine to Oregon, and a hundred places in between.

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation has hired me to bring TR to life in a daily matinee, Mondays through Fridays, from June 11 through September 8 in beautiful Medora, North Dakota. To get a feel for this one of a kind community go here: TR’s cattle ranch and much of his adventurous life were here in the 1880’s. Today, Medora hosts the southern entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the North Dakota Badlands are all around.

Weekends and evenings will be my own, allowing me to book entertainments elsewhere in the country. I do already have some June and August bookings in Illinois, Maine and New Hampshire. I’ll take my car out west and fly in and out of Bismarck when necessary. I’ll spend a good deal of the summer swimming in the Little Missouri River, hiking the buttes, riding a horse and golfing at the Bully Pulpit Golf Course.

If you have ever thought to visit the West, I hope to entice you. By automobile, Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota are four hours south and Yellowstone is seven hours west.

Come join us in Medora, North Dakota!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The TR Tour - Looking Ahead to 2012

Not yet halfway done, it has already been a tremendous summer. My nephew’s wedding in Northern California finally bid me to follow up on opportunities nearby. After great June gigs in Sacramento and Stockton, I return to the West in August for a three performance run from Reno, back to Stockton and on to Muir Woods National Monument. Before then, I’ll drive from the St. Lawrence River of upstate New York, to the lake country of Western New Jersey, through the country of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana and on to salute the Kiwanians of Illinois and Iowa as they gather along the mighty Mississippi River. I’ll be happy for some long days meandering amongst the cornfields and streams of the Midwest.

Travel is such a part of what I do, that I get a bit stir crazy when not travelling. My father, who has travelled and performed for more than forty years, says, “They pay us to drive.” I like driving, and seeing this country along the way. Since the first TR road trip in the fall of 2007, through the 50 state TR Tour in 2008 and up through now, a great deal of the adventure has been along America’s roadways. With the continued success of the TR venture, more and more, the calendar and logistics require me to fly and hopscotch this great land. If time allowed, I would rather continue to travel by car and more by train. Surely, it will continue to be a mix.

Sometimes, when I’m on the road and performing, the pace can get to be quite “Rooseveltian.” It’s nothing out of the ordinary to perform a dozen times across a half dozen communities in the span of three or four days. This fall, the Oregon Historical Society plans a five day TR barnstorm of the state. It’s easier to stay in character when the show schedule reads like a campaign train itinerary.

So, while the schedule for 2011 continues to unfold, the 2012 schedule is already building and the first dates for 2013 are being circled. I do hope that I will be able to embrace all of the requests and opportunities that might be presented, but the business requires me to book ‘em as they come and go where the customers call.

Still, there are places where my TR should be, where the best possible Theodore Roosevelt interpretation should come to life for modern audiences, and I am determined to make those performances happen in 2012 and 2013.

The year 2012 is the centennial of TR’s campaign for the presidency in 1912. He ran first as a Republican, announcing that he was “stripped to the waste and healthy as a bull moose,” adding that “my hat is in the ring.” Of course, TR bolted from the GOP when he and his supporters determined that the nomination of Taft was tainted by dishonest and corrupt methods. The Progressive Party took on its nickname from his early statement, and the Bull Moose campaign enlivened the country. During the campaign, TR survived an assassination attempt and carried the assassin’s bullet in his chest the rest of his days. The press will undoubtedly use TR as a foil for the 2012 presidential elections. His was the most successful third party candidacy in our history and President Obama and his Republican opponent will surely contest who is more fit to wear the TR mantle. Bully. I say bring it on.

We have some big plans for 2012. Firstly, it will be our 25th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2012. Accordingly, it’s high time that TR Joe and Jenny went to Europe to celebrate TR’s many European connections. More on that later.

With a team of good people, I’ll be assisting to host the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Chicago, Illinois, on October 25-28, 2012. We’ll headquarter at the Union League Club and celebrate all things TR and Chicago, including both the 1912 Republican and Progressive party Conventions held there. Visit for all the latest there.

Before the European adventure of the summer, between that and the late autumn celebration of TR, and on into the winter days that stand between election and inaugural, I hope to be in places that hum in resonance with the legacy of TR: New York City, Albany and the Adirondacks in New York; Portsmouth, Hampton Roads and Jacksonville and their naval bases; Yellowstone, Yosemite and North Dakota’s Badlands; the hunting grounds in Colorado and Texas where TR’s legend lives. These and so many more places beckon.

Now more than ever, I know that the American people benefit from hearing the words of and relearning the life story of TR. I know that the many months ahead will give me the opportunity to do so in all the right places, the places that need his message of strenuous living, good citizenship and perseverance. On this last day at the River, with Jenny and Sam cheering me on, I’m committed to redoubling my efforts. America deserves a spot on TR, and I’m just the man to deliver. Bully!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural

As a young boy growing up in Elmhurst, Illinois in the late 1960's and early 1970's I was quite taken with all things Abe Lincoln. Not only was I born in the Land of Lincoln, I was born on the 100th anniversary of his death. Knowing that slavery was evil and that Lincoln and hundreds of thousands of Union dead were sacrificed for the end of slavery, I grew up revering Lincoln.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote of Lincoln:

"Abraham Lincoln was a genius, who wrote only as one of the world's rare geniuses do write. Washington, though in some ways an even greater man than Lincoln, did not have Lincoln's wonderful gift of expression, that gift which makes certain speeches of the rail-splitter from Illinois read like the inspired utterances of great Hebrew seers and prophets. (Parenthetically, I would say that aside from being prophets, what magnificent poets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were!) In all history I do not believe there is to be found an orator whose speeches will last as enduringly as certain speeches of Lincoln.

He possessed that marvelous gift of expression which enabled him quite unconsciously to choose the very words best fit to commemorate each deed. His Gettysburg speech and his Second Inaugural are two of the half dozen greatest speeches ever made - I am tempted to call them the greatest ever made. They are great in their wisdom and dignity, and earnestness and loftiness of thought and expression. There is nothing in Demosthenes or Cicero which comes up to Lincoln's Gettysburg speech. There is one of his letters which has always appealed to me particularly. It is the one running as follows:

Executive Mansion
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam:

I have been shown in the files in the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the alter of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

No president who has ever sat in the White House has borne the burden that Lincoln bore, or been under the ceaseless strain which he endured. It did not let up day or night. Ever he had to consider problems of the widest importance, ever to run the risks of the greatest magnitude. It is a touching thing that the great leader, while thus driven and absorbed, could yet so often turn aside for the moment to do some deed of personal kindness. Nobody but one of the world's geniuses could have met as Lincoln met the awful crisis of the Civil War."

With thanks to Daniel Ruddy - author of Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States - Smithsonian Books.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Weeks Act - 100 Years and Counting

The Weeks Act

March 1, 2011 marks the centennial of the Weeks Act, signed by President William Howard Taft on March 1, 1911. Debated by Congress for over a decade and named for its sponsor, Congressman John Wingate Weeks of Massachusetts, a renewed era of federal forest development began with its passage.

The vast majority of federal forests are in the West, created within federal lands purchased from France, Russia and Mexico or won in the Mexican-American War. In Eastern states, there was little in the way of federal land. Florida, purchased from Spain, was an exception, hence TR’s Ocala National Forest and his many federal bird sanctuaries.

The Weeks Act allowed the federal government to purchase eastern forest land to regulate the headwaters of interstate rivers. The Pisgah National Forest of Western North Carolina, founded in 1916, was purchased primarily from the vast holdings of the Vanderbilt family, the first national forest born of the Weeks Act.

While post dating his presidency, the Weeks Act is an important part of the Roosevelt legacy. As president and after, TR championed the effort. His National Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources in 1908 and his post presidential advocacy were critical to forging the coalition successful in its passage. The Big Burn, the destructive fire that raged in the West in August 1910, provided a final reminder that wise use of water and timber resources might help avert such terrible disasters.

Now, go hike a forest trail!