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tv   The Presidency Theodore Roosevelt - Modern President  CSPAN  November 23, 2021 12:03pm-12:39pm EST

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sunday, the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding comes from these television companies and more. including costs. >> committed to providing eligible families access to affordable internet. bridging the digital divide one engaged student at a time. and now from cork ireland and now from cork, ireland, historian joins us but he's a new jersey boy. he's a yankees fan and after pace university, he earned his advanced degree at cork, island and that's where he'll join us tonight. he's the professor at hampton university london and his specialty is early 20th century
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diplomacy and international relations. and he looks at it all through an interesting lens, studying the media, culture, and public memory of the time. "theodore roosevelt's ghost, the history and memory of an icon." please, as our presidential expert, paint for us a big picture. >> thank you and what an introduction from the great ann compton. a pleasure to be picking off the rushmoore series and i've been told how well educated the audience is tonight. so, i'm going to try to give you stories about roosevelt and roosevelt was never intended to
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be on the mountain. the two people to who started the campaign to carve up rushman and we could spend a whole broadcast talking about him. but these two men had in mind, washington and jefferson carved into the ground inside. all these projects need political support and they enlisted south dakota u.s. senator, peter norback and he's the one who put roosevelt on rushmore. it was his vision for the mountain that made roosevelt come to the for. because roosevelt is the only person to have actually visited south dakota on the mountain. neither of the other presidents did so. he admired him greatly and roosevelt spent three years inside ranching.
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and getting up to other hijinx as we saw. that's what puts roosevelt on there. but when the mountain was being carved in 1931, roosevelt was very much the junior partner among the presidential greats. in fact, most people didn't see roosevelt as among the gratsz of washington, lincoln and jefferson. in the 1920s and 30s, there was an effort to memorialize theodore roosevelt on the washington maul. for it's the place thomas jefferson is memorialized there. that was originally slated for theodore roosevelt. but the american people and congress didn't think he measured up to the other greats like washington and lincoln. and so, jefferson got the spot. but roosevelt has great memorials around the united states.
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it's now in d.c. in the title basin. but in the potomac, is 88 acres of great wildlife trails. it's the greatest respite in the nation's capitol in terms of open space. and there's memory everywhere. in new york, you can wander down east 20th street and stumble on the victoria browns stone or the rio roosevelt in brazil, which is a river named after roosevelt. he's everywhere. he's in everyone of the 50 states. you can find him just about anywhere in many different ways, other than monuments and sites of memory. i have a lot of questions and i'm sure there are a lot of people that want to talk about or places where they spotted rooz volt.
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i'm going to toss everything back to ann to kick off the question and answer round. >> that brings me to one of the things i want to ask. i covered the presidents and teddy roosevelt's enduring gift to modern president is the west wing of the white house. what would aaron sorken call a tv show, if he didn't have the west wing? but you've found amazing places where he's had a real impact as well. >> in fact, the name, the white house, began with theodore res velt. before that, the was the executive mansion. the very name begins with theodore roosevelt. i thought i'd bring whiskey along. bottle's empty. the rough rider's whiskey and there's many other places i've spotted him. john harbored's pub inmous
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misses, has a stain glass window that says speak softly and carry a big stein. stine. >> in our neighborhood in washington d.c., a lot of neighbors have put teddy bears in their window and the idea is children can't go anywhere. they're stuck with their parents and go for a walk and they can play i spy finding teddy bears in windows. but how did teddy and bear come together? >> great question. it start said on a mississippi hunting trip when roosevelt didn't catch a bear on the trip. his host killed the bear, sadly too, wound it and brought it to roosevelt so he would have a kill. roosevelt refused and that led a political cartoonist to draw a bear and that bear became popular.
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a german and brooklyn toy maker created that bear from the image. and associated with theodore roosevelt and the name stuck ever since. >> i mean, he was well aware that teddy bears were a thing? >> in 1906, the brooklyn toy maker designed the bear. so, he would have definitely known this was named after him. >> how many of us get a legacy like that? as a reporter, into political things, but as a reporter, i've covered presidents who have constantly quoting mt. rushmore, washington, jefferson, lincoln. and they, quote, reagan and they quote that other roosevelt. does teddy roosevelt resonate with modern american politics as well? >> absolutely. in fact, he's a bipartisan figure or a nonpartisan figure nowadays.
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every president, since -- roosevelt died in 19 nen. 19 nen. 1919. every president has invoked him and perhaps none more enthusiastically than george bush. and john brown wore famous john brown for that site. but roosevelt is a nonpartisan figure that every president has invoked at some stage. every single one is -- >> i thought if hollywood movies had really been invented a few years earlier, a thing in 1900, teddy roosevelt would have been the perfect action hero. he would have eclipsed john wayne and all those marvel heroes. >> he certainly has the charisma of a hollywood actor.
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my students all think robin williams is theodore roosevelt from "night at the museum." and there he is a man of action. many images include the rough rider image storming up a san juan hill or something like that. absolutely and the charisma, he knew, roosevelt knew the power of motion pictures and he tried to capture that essence in many ways. >> he was a man of the time. it was such a period of change. >> absolutely. the introduction of airplanes, submarines, motion pictures, in fact, and this is a remarkable period. he seems to be the first modern president, because he understands capturing the imagination is a pr exercise and he needs to reach out to get congress to do something or to extend american power throughout the world.
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roosevelt is a revolutionary figure for the white house because he reshapes the office itself. >> well, we're going to take questions from -- i see them coming in from a lot of the people watching. but first we have another special bit of insite from one of the brightest stars that i know at the white house historical association. the historian, dr. matthew costello. and he's going to talk, just for a moment, about the remarkable influence that teddy roosevelt had on the white house itself. ♪ >> good evening. my name is dr. matthew costello and i'm vice president for the national center for white house history and in 1901 when president william mckinley was assassinated, vice president
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theodore roosevelt became the youngest person to hold the office at that time. just shy of 43 years old. he asserted his personality on the office. he did this quite literally with the building of the west wing in 1902. part of the reason this happened is because the roosevelts moved into the white house with six children. up to that time, all presidents worked on the second floor and the work spaces on the east end and private quarters on the west end. because presidency expanded in terms of staff, there wasn't enough space for roosevelt performing family and the people supposed to be working for him. so, he hired an architectural firm, which not only over saw a major renovation project within the white house to return it to its classical roots and build a modern presidential work spaces,
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which we call today the west wing. it was theodore roosevelt thad idea that the president need a separate space. he believed the president was the steward of the people. he believed that if necessary, the president needs to intervene on behalf, whether it was conflicts in business and labor or between international actors. such as russia and japan. in fact, most people don't realize that theodore roosevelt actually received a nobel peace prize. you can see this in the roosevelt room of the west wing. it's a very fitting designation and placement for someone who, not only expanded the authority and visibility of the presidency, but literally built the space. >> well, thank you. a real treasure at the white house historical association.
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are you ready? let me start with twin questions. one from debbie in ohio. what the tale about theodore roosevelt you may have discovered during your research? and the other question, who was tr's closest advisor? >> both of those are tough questions. i'm a big baseball fan. one of the things i did investigate is the president's race in national stadium. there's a million and one stories that could be discovered. the one that i think is most telling about theodore roosevelt and how humble he is, he never wanted to see statues or representation of himself but would rather his memory be an interpretive design. his funeral was a somber affair,
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no singing. very quiet. the other question -- and what was the second question? >> his closest advisor. >> actually there are so many of them but he had a group called the tennis cabinet. people he played tennis with and drank mint juleps with. it was 30 men, they were all men. and they basically were his political operatives. roosevelt's greatest influence and the people he listened to most closely were often his family, his sisters, in fact and his sons and his wife. >> good for him. a question, karen says i understand that there were many volunteers in the spanish-american war in the philippines from north dakota inspired by mr. roosevelt. my grandfather, she writes, was one. does this sound correct? can you tell us anything more?
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>> there's fantastic stories about north dakota rough riders but one in particular, if you get an opportunity. a chap called jesse langdon, who went across the country to join teddy's rough riders. he got on board and fought in the spanish-american war and several others. and whether it's about crossing the united states trying to get into the regimen or getting down to tampa before disembarking for cuba and fighting in cuba. in fact, the rough riders are from all over the united states. interesting note on that, teddy roosevelt was more likely to recruit eastern aristocrats than cowboys from the west. that was woods, who tended to recruit some of the southwestern and midwestern types. >> wonderful. was there ever discussion of putting t.r. on a coin? >> oh, absolutely.
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in fact, i might be wrong but i'm pretty sure he's on some coin but maybe not regularly circulating currency. he had a friends, who was a sculptor, who pressed a number of coins with tr on the face of it and there's a t.r. medal pressed as a coin. >> eugenia says i'm from north dakota and live in arizona. they both claim him and i read it was conjectured, t.r.'s boxing caused his early death after the river of doubt. he died at 60. is all this true, she asks? >> well, i'm not sure if the boxing caused his death but it blinded him in one eye. t.r., at 60, was a very diminished man. the vice president said death had to take him in his sleep, otherwise there would have been a fight. he was a very sick man though.
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he had lost sight in one eye, hearing gone in one eye and boutsz of malaria and got it again in brazil. the trip to brazil severely diminished his fortitude. got a number of infections and it was debilitating literally. >> do you think teddy and eleanor were alike? and if so, how? >> well, many people say they're alike. eleanor was a grade favorite of t.r. eleanor was his brother's daughter and his brother had a severe bout with alcoholism and drug abush and eleanor was brought in to the family many days of the year. so, he favored her greatly. she admired him quite a bit and their fondness and their love of things like human rights and policy matters, that was mutual.
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>> and i once heard a story that eleanor roosevelt heard, the day she married franklin delnures velt. >> that's right. he gave away eleanor at her marriage to franklin. i don't know who said it but someone famously said he wants to be the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening and the corpse at every funeral. >> can you talk about his relationship with booker t. washington? >> he's the first to have african-american over for dinner in the white house. booker t. washington is an important looming figure at that time. t.r. got an awful lot of
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backlash from basically white supremacists who were in the south at that time and never invited booker t. back for a private meeting again. but he became one of his four most correspondents and he lishened to washington over a number of his other advisors. he became an important part of the influential group of people who wrote to roosevelt. >> this from mike, who asks is it true roosevelt was chosen for vice president because his detractors felt it was a place that was basically shut him down where, he would be powerless? >> that is certainly one interpretation. thomas collier flat, the big boss of republican politics in new york, wanted to get roosevelt out of new york.
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he wanted to get rid of him and he became one of the most important figures in history. >> and thrust into the presidency so quickly. was he ready? >> i don't think he expected to be thrust in, even after mckinley was shot. because he goes back the vacation. he is absolutely thrust in and there's great evidence to suggest that those things he did in the early days as president, he probably wouldn't have in later years, when he had more experience and understanding of how the systems worked. >> what kind of things might he not have done? >> a good example is the philippine-american war was a looming problem when he took over. he doesn't know how to handle the war at the outset. his aids were also inexperienced at the time. figure out how the bureaucracy
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of american government works by handling the war a war he inherited. >> here's a question from allen, another mentor ohio viewer. in your opinion, he asks, how much was roosevelt's disagreement with wilson based on personal jealousies and how much was based on fundamental political or diplomatic disagreement? especially diplomatic, i think would be fascinating. >> i think that's a great question. there's no doubt that the two men -- there was no love lost. when roosevelt died, people watching wilson when he got the news, suggested that he smiled a bit. almost happy to be relieved of the pressure that roosevelt brought. the two men had a lot of similarities. in fact, it's roosevelt and the third-party candidacy that pushes wilson to the left and we get a lot of progressive politics in the 1910 because of that.
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on foreign policy, the two men were complete opposites. roosevelt was aiming for american intervention in world war i since november 1914 and wilson keeps us out until 1917. his disdain for wilson 's policies were borderline sudishes at times. >> now, this question is a little change of pace. tiffany from georgia, quote, how many animals lived in t.r.'s white house? i heard it was a menagerie. i heard it was a zoo. >> it was a zoo. they called the white house gang. it was the kids and animals. i heard eagles and all sorts of wild animals. t.r., from his time as a young kid, liked to collect animals, skin and preserve them for
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posterity. there's a number of specmans at the american museum of natural history that are roosevelts, including elephants and things you can't see behind the scenes. the kids loved animals and roosevelt loved teaching them about wildlife. >> and the kids. we look at the white house in the years i've been there. there have been a couple of kids and we, in the white house press core, had a code. leave the kids alone. let them have their childhood. but it seemed like the roosevelt family was bigger than life. >> absolutely. one of the best things about the roosevelt family is alice roosevelt. she's such a character. t.r. said i can run the president and be president or take care of alice. and his other kids were characters as well. everyone of them have gone on to lead an interesting life. when they were kids, not all of
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them livrg lived at the white house. alice got married at the white house. it was really two kids living in the white house and that was ethel and quinton. and they were there all the time. the rest of them were in and out. but it was a zoo of animals and kids. and t.r. loved having them come into office meetings, meetings in the office. they would run in and interrupt secretaries of state to try and tell their dad about some bug they found. >> humanizing, isn't it? and alice roosevelt married the man who became speaker of the house and so many of us women have used her line, if you can't say something nice about somebody, come sit right here next to me. this is jeffrey from florida. roosevelt was the most prolific of presidents who were authors.
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which of his books is the most significant? >> that's a good question and there's no easy answer because he wrote probably 50 books. compilations and things like that. one book stands out and that's "the winning of the west." which is a three-part series of books. what's interesting about it is roosevelt laze out what is known as the frontier thesis. that america was build by the frontier. and laze that out fredric jackson turner. he's a visionary for american history. he writes an awful lot about nature and science. if he hadn't been president of the united states, he would have been a naturalist. dissecting animals and trying to understand how nature and evolution work.
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>> you do look at the impact on society. is he your perfect president? >> well, i mean, no one's perfect, i guess. and t.r. certainly has flaws, for sure. in terms of an intellectual, it's hard to find another one. roosevelt speaks multiple languages. we forget that. one of the audience pointed out he wrote multiple books. more correspondent than any president. 150,000 letters in his time. the next near president is jefferson, who writes about 20,000. i don't know how many emails are swirling around but 150,000 letters is a lot. to be frank, he has his flaws and they're worth exploring. because that humanizes him.
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none of us are perfect, are we? >> none of us. after i left the white house, the fellow at the kennedy school gets to the politics at harvard and they have a letter for president roosevelt to the president of harvard. complaining that his son won't be home at the lake this summer and we really must have our son home, part of the family and it's -- it's on white house stationary. do you look at that and say let the kid go? i've got -- we've got several more questions. time for a few more. a question. from our senior historian. theodore roosevelt could have run for president again in 1908 but decided to step aside four years later and run for the
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president. was not running in 1908. one of his biggest regrets. >> oh, thanks, matt and thanks for the video on the west wing. that was just perfect. in 1908, he said he wasn't going to run again after the 1904 election. he effectively turned two terms because mckinley die too early in the second term. he loves working as a president. he loves the job and said he did. and i think he thought it was a political misstep as well. never announce your intention so early in the game and probably why it led to the animosity with taf and to throw his hand in the ring in 2012.
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and in suffolk, virginia, chair of the tra. he writes, death of his wife and mother on the same day is what drove t.r. to the dakotas. what is the reason or reasons that led him to leave the territory? >> that's a good question. one of those things, when you hear about it, it's quite shocking he lost his wife, who had just given birth to his first daughter and he lost his monther on the same day. it was valentine's day to boot. he goes to north dakota. if you count the days in north dakota, he goes back quite a lot. he wants to see his daughter. wants to get back to alice and he loves new york. as much as he's a westerner, he's a new yorker, foremost. that ranching trip is back and forth and a conflicted one between getting over the trauma in his life to making sure he takes care of responsibilities.
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>> here is the last question from the audience. dwayne in milwaukee asks did tr ever reconcile with taft and a second one from caroline in brisbane, australia. you have an international audience. think of the time zones we're covering. where did roosevelt like to holiday the most and which places did he gain the most joy and rejuvenation from? start with the reconciliation with taft. >> the first one, in terms of taft, massive falling out. they don't talk for about four years after 1912 and meet in a hotel in 1916 and put their past behind them. they did have great affection for each other. when roosevelt dies, the last person standing overhis grave, as everyone leaves is william taft.
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they said the only thing you could hear is a bowie and the former president crying. in terms of his favorite place, his home, oyster bay. but when he was president and away from home, he loved to go to a small cottage in virginia, called pine knot. you probably can't visit it without spending serious time doing trekking. he wanted to get away from everything and find peace with his family. >> where is it in virginia, roughly? >> i think near charlottesville but not 1100% sure. it's recently been restored. it's upstairs, down stairs cabin. there's nothing to it. you wouldn't imagine a president would be there. >> to live in the white house, executive mansion and still find great solace there. i have one find question for
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you. times are tough right now. the united states is facing a great deal. is there something about teddy roosevelt's robust leadership that is a message for all of us when we do hit troubled times like this? >> i would say he got very right we can learn from and something he got wrong. i think he knew it was wrong. the thing he got wrong was conservation. theodore roosevelt was way ahead of his time advocating for preservation of national lands, resources, animals and the environment more generally. not only did he advocate that in policy, no, he lived it. i mean, nature was his life. he wanted to be out there and inspire americans to save and
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preserve that nature. on the other hand, probably social justice. we have to talk about this tonight because our country is going through such trauma at the moment that theodore roosevelt is not the poster child for race relations. he tried to go there but didn't really fulfill that and same could be said with women's rights and equality of gender. one of the last letters wrote "if you give women the right to vote, you will be made immortal." i think she's right. but he didn't do it. he advocated it but didn't take his ideas into action. he's a good example of what we still need to strive to achieve, in terms of equality, and please, let's heed his message on climate change. >> i've got to tell you this is
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an absolutely wonderful view of a dynamic figure. the first covering we're discuss on mt. rushmore and thank you for coming pin in. for it's almost tomorrow there, isn't it >> it is. and thank you so much for having me. president george washington gave his farewell address in 1796. historians and authors revisit the president's warnings against threats for the young nation. watch at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. ♪ ♪
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