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tv   The Presidency Theodore Roosevelt Descendant  CSPAN  October 12, 2018 8:56pm-9:19pm EDT

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descendents of presidents convene in washington for a summit hosted by the white house historical association, american history tv interviewed roosevelt, the great grandson of theodore roosevelt . >> have you been connected, is this something you've always had a special connection and work to develop history? >> it's an interesting question. people have the idea that our family spent all their time sitting around tables talking about tf. we never talked about tia, we talked about what all families
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talk about felt -- talk about. i didn't become aware of it until i was older. >> it wasn't until later. it became clear to me thatã there was only one tr and i wasn't one of them. in college really came to the realization that i had a certain level of responsibility , because of my relationship it wasn't until i was in college that i really began to
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understand that i had -- that came with it, a bunch of responsibilities to live up to other people's expectations of what they thought i should be . >> i learned about this, it was really interesting i went to harvard to adam's house and there were these old irish ladies who'd been there forever we were terrified, they'd seen everything we were supposed to
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wear a jacket or tie and someone would come in without a shirt on this or that but nothing phase them in the head lady was very formidable and cast the best kept us all in line and once she called me aside and said, mr. roosevelt i want to talk to you and so she took me aside. i was not dressed terribly but somewhat shabbily and she said to me, mr. roosevelt, it's all right for those other kids, those other boys to be like that but you have got a certain responsibility and you have to live up to it and i thought, this was probably the most important lesson i learned in college. at first i was angry, but i thought about it and that really impressed on me the ability -- the responsibility of being a descendent of a famous person . >> so have you incorporated that into your life?
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>> i've done a lot of writing and paid a lot of attention and right now i happen to be the ceo of the theodore roosevelt association. i do a lot of work in that area. it also got me to pull up my socks and behave a little better. i wasn't behaving all that great when i was a college student and the legacy became important. i began to realize how important his ideas were and how important he had been to this country and that his ideas deserve to be remembered and underlined and new generations need to hear about them. his ideas of conservation, the u.s. military, his ideas about the relationship between business and labor and rich and poor and his ideas about dealing with foreign policy and many people have a very
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incorrect view of him, he was thought of often as an almost clownish care for earlier periods. many of his ideas represent what these americans pay attention to, follow and try to preserve . >> i've just recently been reacquainted with this book, he had a colleges review roosevelt's personality,
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because the exuberance, the energy, the lack of sleep because he's always doing something is unusual, what is your interpretation of how your ancestor, tr was able to manage so much in his lifetime and so much in a day, reading books while doing other things , is there a name for what he was? >> i don't think so. he had an extraordinary mind. he was onion usual character. he was lucky and did not require more than five hours of sleep or so so that automatically gave him a lot of extra time. second, he had a tremendous ability to focus the stories mentioned reading and writing and there are stories of him sitting in cabinet meetings where they discuss major issues of state and at some point, it was not important for him to be
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particularly involved because the other people would be arguing about something and he would pick up a book and read it. he would be reading and still listening to them that he didn't disappear, his reading ability was spectacular. they didn't realize how unusual he was, he had almost a photographic memory, he could remember everything he read. if you and i could remember everything we read, imagine how smart we would be. he could read up to three books a day. he would be them so fast people thought he was just skimming them. but he could quote vast pieces of it. so you had an extraordinary mind. he had an extraordinary interest in everything. he was very broad in what he knew, he was constantly surprising people that he knew as much or more than they did about whatever their subject was which happened to be there life work, he knew a lot about it.
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he was blessed with a really extraordinary mind and he had this tremendous energy, he didn't ever seem to tire. i suppose that when he crashed, he spent five hours absolutely somber but, all the time he was doing things. that he didn't think he was unusual, he didn't have self- awareness about how extraordinary his gifts were . >> that he could certainly see himself in juxtaposition to others. >> he had a lot of self- awareness, others would try to interpret it, psychobabble is if he was manic-depressive or this or that or the other thing. i'm not very convinced of most of those arguments.
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he was a man who had extraordinary tragedies with depressive moments and also a man of extraordinary energy and enthusiasm, unbounded enthusiasm but he was not manic. so, to the extent we are all somewhat manic-depressive and i think he was but his character was larger . >> the interesting thing about him is that he accomplished a lot of his programs through executive order. we are having that debate again today in this country, what do you think the lessons are about the strong chief executive and accompanying -- accomplishing things through executive order rather than legislative. i read that taft afterward came in and help to codify some of these policies by putting them before congress and essentially regular order. talk to me about the executive order. he is credited with creating the modern presidency in many ways.
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his belief was quite different than the trail of providence the best trails of providence -- the trail of presidents from lincoln up to him. he viewed the presidency's powers is only those curtailed by the constitution not telling him what he couldn't do, if the constitution did not tell him what he couldn't do and he would do it. it's a wonderful example, there's a big problem with birds in those days in women's hats and they had extraordinary bird feathers, the bird population was being decimated because they wanted the glympse -- the plumes of the best birds in town and it was disrupting breeding. extraordinary things were being destroyed so a group of people came to him and they were talking about a particular little island in the indian river in florida which was a bird breeding area, they were pushing for it having it turned
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into a bird preserve. so they met with him at the white house and he turned to an eight of his and said, well is there any reason or rule preventing me from making a bird preserve? no one had heard of a bird preserve so they said no, sir president and he said okay, it's a bird preserve. he had a very active's view about the presidency and a much of that was achieved by executive order and in the conservation area he did wonderful things, creating national forests, 230 billion acres, 1/7 of the country he turned into it mostly by executive order particularly at the end. it comes down to a question of what the constitution says and we leave that to the courts. and the attitude of the person doing it the quality of the person, the idea, good ideas,
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but it can be misused . >> after he left office he took a trip down the amazon and you replicated that, what was the experience of life ? -- i'd like? >> it was kind of tough. it had changed since he was there. it's part of a huge indian reservation, so no one had been down there. but, we had all of the modern advantages. we had avon rafts, we had high tech food and reconstituted food , so one of the first things became fairly quickly clear to me, even though ours was pretty difficult, it was nothing like what they had. for example, with avon rafts, which weighed 200 pounds, you could carry them around easily around the rapids and they could
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maneuver the rapids more easily, these 200 poundsã2500 pound trees, that's what they waited, they were dug out and they had to drag those around the rapids , that's not the easiest place to drag anything. it would take them many days to do that. we could just walk over. so,, they did it 30 times with these huge things. so i got some taste, those guys were tough. things he picked up, they might've helped endanger his health . >> yes and no. generally people think that it probably led to his premature
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death that he was only 60s . >> that he had a heart problem? >> a lot of people don't know this guy when he was president he got into a serious carriage accident in western massachusetts, where his leg was severely injured, it was caused by a carriage going along with the president of massachusetts in a secret service guy and his secretary and the driver of the carriage that i think had two horses and it was a trolley . >> it was the beginning of the trolley era running along and pushing, but nobody noticed that the roads crossed each other, killed one of the horses, it spooked tr within 30 feet. his injury was very serious. he was in a wheelchair for six months. while he was president, nobody knows that, he was in a
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wheelchair for six months. the injury created infections in his bone which is very hard to treat because you can't get the antibiotics in there but they didn't have antibiotics, so it was just there, so in the river, he got crushed between -- they were trying to rescue one of these canoes as they called him and it reactivated it. there was a doctor on the trip with very little in the way of equipment with him, so with no anesthetic and no antibiotics, they sliced tr open to the bone ã >> ouch -- expect that's hard enough but then they scraped the bone that was a big trauma . >> he survived . >> in the jungle . >> yes in the jungle in the middle of nowhere. then for about a month he was just kind of delirious.
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he also had malaria. he didn't get malaria on the river he got malaria from cuba. in those days malaria, even today it still a problem but, in those days you just had it inside of you and it burst forward every now and then. i remember my grandfather in the second world war fought in new guinea and got malaria and had the same problem. for no apparent reason, he suddenly would have an outbreak of it which is totally debilitating. you don't get malaria unless there are other people around you that have malaria, that the mosquitoes can bite and then bring to you. there were not any other people on the river, so the malaria came from earlier. all the combinations wore him down and i studied at one point, his medical history, which is unbelievable. this broken and that broken. he once said, how does it go, i want to wear out not rust out and he certainly did.
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>> so let's spend a minute on your great-grandmother, edith roosevelt, does your father have memories of her? >> i have memories of her. i'm never flattered if i remember when people ask me if i remember tr, he died when i was in my 20s, but his wife we called her to bless our grandmother, she lived until i was seven or eight so i remember her very well, i spent quite a bit of time at sagamore hill which was the roosevelt family home. she was terrifying. that was the year of children seen and not heard and this and that. she was very formidable and a very private woman and did not have much time for me. but she was an extraordinary character, i think we are getting to learn more and more about presidential wives and how
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they affected and helped and so on, their husbands. of course, eleanor is a major example but edith, my great- grandmother, played a very important role and she matched tr in many things. tr was not a good judge of character of people and was often pushing people in it perhaps is not a good idea, but edith kind of tamped him down and she was good at tamping him down. i hear this from stories but not because i know it, when he got to exuberant at the dining table at the white house that she would say things like, theodore, it's comments like that they get you into trouble, and he, like a six-year-old, would immediately listen to her. she was a very important partner of his . >> where are his papers? >> they are in two places, harvard at the hope library, they have most of the
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nonpresidential stuff in the library of congress has the presidential papers. they are spread around, by the way because we find more and more and more of them. he wrote 200ãhe wrote 130,000 letters, it sounds outrageous but when you think about how many emails you write, like emails, he would often write these like emails, he would often did take them. a were often short, they would say i cannot come to my dinner or whatever it was but it was still a huge corpus, we keep finding more and more of them. i find people coming to me all the time and say we have this a tr letter and i say if you have a tr letter, get a fully couple of it and send it to harvard . >> 100 years later, is there still more scholarship to be done on theodore roosevelt? >> edwin mars wrote a brilliant three volume life of tr and it's wonderful. i'm amazed at how much is left out. what is happening now is more and more scholarship should be
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done on smaller pieces, but they are very interesting. i once wrote an article called the 50th central books that you start off with 50 books and what i did is i picked 50 different areas and found the best book, some of them weren't good books but there are 50 different areas and hundreds of books have been written but they keep coming up with new stuff and new stuff comes out, there are two kinds of ways that history remembrance changes. it's often secondary, we sent letters to people, so that is one way that history changes. they say every generation needs its own biography of great people. how we perceive the world and the problems in the historical issues and the important political policy issues, changes.
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you can see tr looking, you can look at him from a different lens and see whether he lift up to her furthering those things. the stage lighting has changed, the same subject, but it seen in a different light. expect that's what makes it also interesting . >> thank you for telling us about your great grandfather and grandmother. >> thank you, it's a pleasure . >> next, american history tv interviews jennifer harvill, great granddaughter of calvin coolidge. >>


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