tv The Presidency Theodore Roosevelt - Modern President CSPAN November 24, 2021 6:24am-7:00am EST
he's a yankees man and after pace university. he earned his advanced degrees at cork and cork ireland and that's where he will join us tonight. he's a professor at rohampton university london, and he's a specialty is early 20th century diplomacy and international relations, and he looks at it all through an interesting lens studying the media culture the public memory of his times his book theater roosevelt's ghost the history and memory of an american icon. so professor welcome to history. happy hour and please as our presidential expert paint for us a big picture. thanks very much. and and what an introduction from the great and compton. it's a pleasure to join everyone tonight and a pleasure to be kicking off the rushmore series and to be talking about theodore roosevelt's and his place on that mountain.
i've been told how well educated the audience is tonight. so what i'm going to try and do is give you some stories about roosevelt and rushmore that you might have heard of before and so to kick things off. i thought i would mention that roosevelt was never intended to be on that mountain or at least not at the outset. the two people that really started the campaign to carve up rushmore was dwayne robinson a south dakota historian and good sam borglen the artist who would eventually carved the mountain quite an eccentric character. we could spend a whole broadcast talking about just him. but these two men had in mind is washington and jefferson carved into the granite in south dakota. but all big projects in rushmore was a very big project all big projects need political support. and so they enlisted south dakota us senator peter norbeck and peter norbeck is the one who put roosevelt on rushmore. it was his vision for the mountain that really made roosevelt come to the four.
that's because roosevelt is the only person to have actually visited south dakota that is on that mountain. none of the other three presidents did so norbeck admired him greatly and he wanted him there because roosevelt had spent three years in north dakota as we saw there in medora three years ranching and getting up to other hijinks as we saw. so that's what puts roosevelt on there, but when the mountain was being carved in 1931 roosevelt was very much the junior partner amongst those presidential grades. in fact, most people didn't see roosevelt as among the greats of washington lincoln and jefferson. how do i know that well? in the 1920s and 1930s there was an effort to memorialize theodore roosevelt on the national mall. they wanted to put roosevelt in a sacred space in washington dc. in fact, it's a place where thomas jefferson is memorialized today the title base. that area was originally slated
for theodore roosevelt. but congress people in the american public just didn't think that he measured up to the other grades like washington and lincoln and so jefferson got the spot. but roosevelt has some great memorials in monuments all over the united states and also beyond internationally. jefferson's memorial is now in dc and the title basin but roosevelt's site in theodore roosevelt island in the potomac is 88 acres of great wildlife trails in the nation's capital. it's the greatest respite in the nation's capital in terms of open space and there's sites of memory everywhere in new york. you can wander down east 20th street and stumble upon the victorian victorian brownstone and that's the birthplace of theodore roosevelt or you can wander to theodore roosevelt national park in north dakota or you can traverse the rio roosevelt in brazil, which is a river named after theodore roosevelt. the fact is is he's everywhere theodore roosevelt is kind of ubiquitous. he's in every one of the 50
states and you can find him just about anywhere in many different ways other than just monuments and sites of memory. i know there's a lot of questions and i'm sure there's a lot a lot of people that might might have sites of memory that they want to talk about her places where they've spotted roosevelt. so i'm gonna toss everything back to and to kick off off the questions and answers around. well, thank you michael, and that leads me right to one of the things that i want to ask. i covered the white house through all those presents and and the last part quarter of the 20th century and teddy roosevelt's enduring gift to modern presidents is that west wing of the white house? i mean, what would aaron sorkin call a tv show if he didn't have the west wing, but you have found some amazing places where tv tr has has had a real impact as well. well, you're absolutely right. in fact the name the white house began with theodore roosevelt before that. it was known as the executive mansion. so the very name begins with
theodore roosevelt. and there's many other places as well given that it's the happy hour. i thought i'd bring some whiskey along the bottle is empty, but the spirit's still there the rough riders whiskey and there's many other places where i've spotted them john harvard's pub in cambridge, massachusetts. last window that says speak softly and carry a big stein. very unusual spots oh, so um in the quarantine in the current pandemic quarantine in our neighborhood here in washington, dc. 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 they go for walks and they can play i spy finding teddy bears in windows, but how did teddy and bear come together? great question. it started on a mississippi hunting trip when roosevelt didn't catch a bear on the trip. his hosts club to bear sadly and
wounded it and brought it to theodore roosevelt to shoot and so that he would have a kill but roosevelt refused and that sort of that led a political cartoonist called clifford berryman to draw a cute bear and and that that bear became very popular a german toymaker and a brooklyn toy maker created teddy bears from that image that barry man drew an associated with theodore roosevelt and the name name is stuck ever since did roosevelt know that i mean he was well aware that teddy bears were a thing. in 1906 the brooklyn toy maker mars mitchum designed the bear. so tr would have definitely known that this was named after him how many of us get a legacy like that now as a reporter into some more political things as a reporter, i've covered presidents who have our constantly quoting mount rushmore, washington jefferson
lincoln and they quote reagan and they quote that other roosevelt. um does teddy roosevelt resonate with american a modern politics as well? absolutely. in fact, he's a bipartisan figure or even a nonpartisan figure nowadays. every single president since warren harding roosevelt died in 1919 every single president since then has invoked him and perhaps none more as enthusiastically as the likes of george w bush bill clinton and barack obama who in fact he launched his affordable care act and osawatomy, kansas where theodore roosevelt spoke and of course john brown, you know is more famous. john brown that site, but but roosevelt is a is a is a nonpartisan figure that every president has invoked in some stage some more than others, but every single one is used to well if i've always thought that if hollywood had movies had really been invented a few years earlier had been a thing in
1900. teddy roosevelt would have been the perfect action hero he would have eclipsed john wayne and tom cruise and all those marvel heroes, right? well, i mean he certainly has the charisma of a hollywood actor and you know if you see him in films you'll you know, my students all think robin williams is theodore roosevelt from the movie a night at the museum and there of course, he is a man of action, but there's so many films about theodore roosevelt many of which include that rough rider image the cowboy on horseback storming up a san juan hill or something like that. so, yeah, absolutely and the charisma he knew roosevelt in his own lifetime the power of motion pictures and he tried to capture that essence in in many ways. and he was a man of the time it was such a period of change. absolutely. i mean the introduction of airplanes submarines motion pictures. in fact come in during his is time at the white house. so this is a remarkable period
of changing he seems to be really the first modern president because he understands that capturing the imagination of the american people is really a pr exercise and he needs to reach out to them in order to get congress to do something or in order to you know, extend american power throughout the world. so roosevelt is a revolutionary figure for the white house. not just because he names it but because he reshapes the office itself. well, we're going to take some questions like from i see them coming in from a lot of the people watching. but first we have another. special bit of insight from one of the brightest stars that i know at the white house historical association. it's senior 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 vice president of the david m reubenstein national center for white house history in the senior historian on staff at the white house historical association in 1901. when president william mckinley was assassinated vice president theodore roosevelt became the youngest person to hold the office ever at that time. he was just shy of 43 years old. early on in his presidency roosevelt asserted his personality really on the office. he really wanted to expand executive power and he did this actually quite literally what the building of the west wing in 1902 now part of the reason this happened was because the roosevelt's moved into the white house with six children and up to that point in time. all presidents had worked on the second floor of the white house the workspaces were on the east end and the family's private quarters were on the west end because the presidency had expanded in terms of staff. there's simply wasn't enough space for roosevelt's family and the people who were supposed to be working for him.
so he hired an architectural firm mckim meat and white of new york, which not only oversaw a major renovation project within the white house to unify and return it to its neoclassical roots. but also to build the modern presidential workspace. today we call this the west wing which has been modified and expanded upon since then, but it was theodore roosevelt that had the idea that the needed a separate designated space in order to fully fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and duties roosevelt believed that the president was really the steward of the people. he believed that if necessary the president needs to intervene on behalf, whether it was conflicts between business and labor. or between international actors such as russia and japan. in fact, most people don't even realize that theodore roosevelt actually received a nobel peace prize for his mediation of the russo japanese war today. you can actually see this nobel peace prize 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 the visibility of the presidency, but also who literally built the space. well, thank you, matt costello a real treasure at the white house historical association. met mike. are you ready? let me start with these twin questions. they came one came from debbie in mentor, ohio. what is the tale about theodore roosevelt that you may have discovered during your research and the other question from warren metzger who was tr's closest advisor. oh, that's both of those are tough questions. i'm a big baseball fan. so one of the things that i really wanted to investigate was the president's race and national stadium, but there's there's a million in one stories that could be that could be discovered. the one that i think is most telling about theodore roosevelt
and how humble he is is he didn't ever want to see any statues or represents but representations of himself, but would rather have his memory be a more artistic or interpretive design and so the family aim to have no statues and statuary. his funeral was a very somber affair no singing very quiet the other question and remind me. what was the second question his closest advisor. oh his closest advisor. actually, there's so many of them, but he had a group called the tennis cabinet people that he played tennis with and actually drink mint juleps with fitting i guess for this podcast. but yeah, tennis government was 30 men. they were all men and and they they basically were his political operatives. but roosevelt's greatest influence is in the people that he listened to most closely were often his family his sisters in fact and and his his sons and his wife. yeah good for him a question
from karen crumblas. she says i understand 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? oh, there's fantastic stories about north dakota rough riders, but there's one in particular if you get an opportunity, there's a chap called jesse langdon who traveled all the way across the country to join teddy's rough riders and he got there. he signed himself in and he got on board. he fought in the in the spanish-american war and then several others and the stories are epic whether it's about crossing the united states to try and get into the regimen or getting down to tampa before disembarking for cuba and the fighting in cuba, but yes, certainly there are north dakota rough riders. in fact the rough riders are from all over the united states interesting note on that teddy roosevelt was more likely to recruit the eastern aristocrats
if you will then the then the sort of cowboys from the west that was leonard wood his commanding officer who tended to recruit some of the southwestern and midwestern types. wonderful now, here's some judy floyd was there ever discussion of putting t r on a coin? oh, absolutely. so in fact, i might be wrong, but he is on i'm pretty sure he's on some coins, but maybe not regularly circulating currency, but he had a good friend cinco dan who was a sculptor who would pressed a number of coins with tr on the face of it and there is in fact a tr metal that's pressed as a coin. here from eugenia heart says i'm from north dakota and now live in arizona. they both claim him and i read it was conjectured. tr's boxing caused his early death after the river of doubt. he died at 60. he's all this true she asks. well, i'm not sure if the boxing
cause this death, but it certainly blinded him in one eye. so tr at 60 was a very diminished man. you wouldn't know in the nation was quite surprised. in fact, the vice president said that death had to take him in his sleep. otherwise there would have been a fight. he was a very sick man though. i mean he had lost sight and one eye is hearing his gun and one eye he had malaria about malarious since 1898 when he was in cuba. he got it again in brazil that trip to brazil seriously diminished demands fortitude. he got some severe infections and it was debilitating really from jacqueline oulette. i hope i'm saying that correctly here in northern virginia. do you think teddy and eleanor were alike? if so, how? well many people say that they're alike and eleanor was a great favorite of tr for those who don't know eleanor was tr's niece his brother's daughter and of course his brother had a severe bout with alcoholism and drug abuse and eleanor was
effectively brought into the family and you know for for many days of the year, so he favored her greatly. she admired him quite a bit and i think they're fun and their their love of things like human rights and you know, policy matters, you know that that was mutual. and i i once her to story mike that eleanor roosevelt unheard date the day she married franklin delano roosevelt another relative. everything was fine until uncle teddy walked in and just took just sucked all the oxygen out of the room. that's right, and so he gave away eleanor at her marriage to franklin and i don't know who said it but someone famously said that he wants to be the bride at every wedding the baby in every christening in the corpse at every funeral. ambitious here's from sarah in chicago. can you talk about tr's relationship with booker t, washington? oh, i'd love to and it's
especially fitting now tr is the first american president to break bread with an african-american in the white house to have dinner with an african-american of course, but booker t. washington is a looming important figure and activists in american history at that time. interesting to note tr got an awful lot of backlash from basically white supremacists that were in the south of that time and he never invited booker t back for such a public meeting again, but booker t washington came became one of these four most correspondents and roosevelt listened to washington over a number of his other advisors actually so he became an important part of that influential group of people that wrote to roosevelt. no, this question is coming in from mike glaser. who asks is it true roosevelt was chosen for vice president because his detractors felt it was a place that would basically shut him down where he would be powerless.
that is certainly one interpretation. i thomas collier platt. who was the big boss of republican politics in new york really wanted to get roosevelt. he get him out of new york. he was governor of new york for only a short while before he got nominated to be vice president and the speculation. is that plat wanted to get rid of him and put him into a whole in corner position. of course, it didn't happen that way and tr became one of the most important presidential figures in american history, and he was thrust into the presidency so quickly was he ready? that's a really good question. i mean, i don't think he expected to be thrust in even after mckinley was shot because he goes back to his vacation. so yeah, he is absolutely thrusting and there are there is great evidence to suggest that some things that he did in his early days as president. he probably wouldn't have done in later years when he had more experience and more understanding about how the systems worked. what kind of things that might he not have done a really good example is the filipino american
war was a looming problem for america when he took over and and tr frankly doesn't know how to handle the war at the outset his his aids and bureaucrats people like ellie hu root who are also somewhat inexperienced at that time really figure out how the bureaucracy of american government works by handling that war a war. he inherited in fact here's a question from alan 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 it based on fundamental political or diplomatic agreement disagreement, and especially the diplomatic i think would be fascinating. yeah, i mean, i think that's a really great question. there's no there's no doubt that the two men there was no love lost. in fact when roosevelt died people that were watching wilson when he got the news it's it was suggested that that he smiled a bit. he was almost happy to be
relieved of this pressure that roosevelt brought in terms of domestic policy the two men had a lot of a lot of similarities. in fact, it's roosevelt and his third his third party candidacy that really pushes wilson to the left and we get a lot of progressive politics in the 1910s because of that but on foreign policy the two men were complete opposites roosevelt was aiming for american intervention in world war. i really since 1914 november 1914 and and wilson keeps us out of war until 1917 and in many ways roosevelt's outward disdain for wilson's policies. we're border lines to dishes at times. i mean, it was a real attack on his and on his policies. now this question is a little change of pace tiffany from austell, georgia quote. how many animals lived in tr's white house? i heard it was a menagerie. i heard it was a zoo.
it was pretty much a zoo. i mean they called it the white house gang it was you know, the kids and the animals then as well. it was a i heard eagles and all sorts of wild animals. i mean tr from his time as a young kid likes to collect animal skin them and preserve them for posterity. really. in fact, there's a number of specimens at the american museum of natural history that our roosevelts including a number of elephants and plenty of things that you can't see behind the scenes. so it's no surprise that they were there the kids loved animals and roosevelt loved teaching them about wildlife. and the kids i mean we look at the white house just in the years. i've i've been there there have been a couple of kids and actually we in the white house press corps of had a kind of code, you know, leave the kids alone. they weren't they didn't run for president. let have their childhood. but it just seemed like the roosevelt family was bigger than life. absolutely. i mean one of the best things
about the roosevelt family is alice roosevelt. she's just such a character and tr said i could either run the country and be president or i can take care of alice and his other kids they all they were all characters as well that every one of them has gone on to to lead some interesting life and but when they were kids they were they not all of them, of course lived at the white house. alice was got married at the white house, but she was, you know older than it was really two kids that were living in the white house and that was ethel and quentin and they were there all the time the rest of them were in and out, but it was a zoo a zoo of animals as you have kids and tr loved having them in coming into office meetings in the office and they would run in and they would interrupt, you know secretaries of state in order to try and tell their dad about some bug that they found on the white house lawn. humanizing, isn't it and alison alice roosevelt longworth married the man who became speaker of the house and so many of us women in this town have
used her line if you can't say someone nice about somebody come sit right here next to me. here is another question. okay, this is jeffrey margolis from naples florida. roosevelt was the most prolific of presidents who were authors which of his books is the most significant of his writings. well, that's a good question. and there's there's no easy answer because he wrote probably 50 books not all original monographs, but compilations and things like that one book stands out to me and that's called the winning of the west which in fact is a three-part four-part series of books, but what's interesting about it is that roosevelt lays out what's known as the frontier thesis that america was built by the frontier and he lays that thesis out before the most famous ad here into that thesis frederick jackson turner, he writes that book two years before frederick jackson turner articulates that thesis publicly really he's
really a visionary for american history. he writes an awful lot about nature and about science if he hadn't been president in the united states. he said he would have been a naturalist he would have been dissecting animals and trying to understand how nature and evolution works. this fits into your mode of historical research. as you do look at the impact on society the culture the media communications. is he kind of your perfect president? well, i mean no one's perfect, i guess but and she are certainly has this flaws. that's for sure. but in terms of an intellectual, it's hard to find another one jefferson. maybe john quincy adams, but no one i mean roosevelt speaks multiple languages, we forget that you know as one of the audience pointed out, he wrote multiple books. he wrote more correspondence than any president. he wrote a hundred and fifty thousand letters in his time. i mean the next near president is is jefferson who writes about
20,000 man. i don't know how many emails are swirling around nowadays, but 150,000 letters is an awful lot. he's a he's an inspirational character for a lot of those reasons, but to be frank he does have his flaws as well and they're worth exploring because as you said and that humanizes him, none of us are perfect. are we not not any of us i was after i left the white house a fellow at the kennedy school institute of politics at harvard and i took us through the archives and they have a letter from 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 we did and it's an absolutely and it's on white house stationary to president harvard. do you look at that and say well maybe let the kids go i've got we've got several more questions. we've got time for a few more. um a question.
from matt costello our senior historian at the white house historical association matt asked theodore roosevelt could have run for president again in 1908, but he decided to step aside four years later. he decided to run again for the president was not running in 1908 one of his biggest regrets. oh, thanks, matt. and thanks for your video on the west wing. i think that was just perfect. yeah, i think he did. i mean in 1908. he said that he wasn't gonna run again after he won the 1904 election. he thought that was right because he had effectively served two terms because mckinley died so early in his second term. yeah, he regretted that. i mean he thinks he he loves working as the president he'd loved the job and he said that he loved the job. so it was a great regret and i think he thought it was a political misstep as well never announce your intention so early in the game and that's probably
why it led to the animosity between taft and eventually his decision to as we saw earlier throw his head into the ring in 1912. here is a question from david archet archett cell. i hope i say that even close to right in suffolk, virginia and he is chair of the tra. he writes death of his wife and mother on the same day is what drove tr to the dakotas. what is the reason or reasons that drove him to leave the territories? yeah, that's a good question. i mean it's one of those things when you hear about it. it's quite shocking that he lost his wife who just given birth to his his first daughter and he lost his mother on the very same day and it was valentine's day to boot and he goes of course to north dakota one of the really interesting things if you count the days these in north dakota, he actually goes back quite a lot, you know. he wants to see his daughter he
wants to get back to alice and he loves new york too as much as he's a westerner. he's also a new yorker foremost so that that ranching trip is back and forth and it's a conflicted one between getting over the trauma of his life to making sure that he takes care of his responsibilities. um here here's a last question from the audience dwayne and milwaukee asks did ever reconcile with taft. and oh and a second one here from caroline in brisbane, australia. you've got an international audience where think of the time zones. we're covering here caroline asks, where did roosevelt like to holiday the most and what place in the us? did he gain the most joy and rejuvenation from start with the reconciliation with taft? so i mean both of those are stupendous questions the first one in terms of taft massive falling out they don't talk for about four years after 1912, but they meet in a hotel in 1916 and
they just see each other and they kind of put their their past behind them. they really did have great affection for each other and when roosevelt dies the last person standing over his grave is everyone leaves. the funeral is william howard taft and he sobbing. in fact, someone said the only thing you could hear was the dinging of a buoy and the former president crying so they certainly did patch up there there disagreements in terms of his favor place his home. he loved his home oyster bay but away from home and when he was president, he loved to go to a small cottage in virginia called pine knot. you wouldn't find it on a map. you probably can't visit it without spending some serious time doing some trekking and this was the reason why he wanted to go there he wanted to get away from everything and and find some peace with his family. where is it in virginia, roughly? i think it's near charlottesville, but i i'm not 100% sure about that. yes. it's very hard to get to i don't think you can drive to the the
cabin. it's recently been restored, but it's a single pile like upstairs downstairs cabin if there's nothing to it you wouldn't imagine a would be there. to live in the white house the executive mansion and to still find the great solace there. i have one final question to ask for you at times are tough right now. the united states is facing a great deal. is there something about teddy roosevelt's robust leadership? that that it is a message for all of us and when we do hit troubled times like this. absolutely. there's there's i would say there's something that theodore roosevelt got very right that we can learn from today and there's something that he got. wrong, i think he knew it was wrong though, too. the thing he got right was conservation one of the greatest crises facing us today is climate change and environmental protection and theodore roosevelt knew better than anyone he was way ahead of his
time advocating for preservation of national lands and resources animals, but also just the environment more generally and not only did he advocate that in policies because lots of presidents do that. no, he lived this. i mean nature was his life. he wanted to be out there and he wanted to inspire americans to save and preserve that nature. on the other hand is probably social justice and 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 kind of got it and he tried to go there with the the dinner with booker t washington, but he didn't really fulfill that and the same could be said with his relationship with women's rights and equality of gender. you know, elizabeth cady state statin wrote to him one of her last letters in fact if you give women the right to vote you will be made immortal and i think she's right. he didn't do it. he advocated it as a third party candidate in 1912, but he didn't go the whole way with that.
he didn't take his ideas into action. so i think he's you know, he's a good example of what we still need to strive to achieve in terms of equality. and then please let's heat his message on climate change. well, i've got to tell you michael coleman. this is an absolutely wonderful view of a dynamic figure the first carving that we are discussing on mount rushmore, and thank you so much for coming in. it is almost tomorrow there in cork ireland, isn't it it