Theodore Roosevelt is mostly remembered as the twenty-sixth President of the United States, but this astonishingly multifaceted man was a great many other things as well. In addition to holding elective office as a New York State Assemblyman, Governor of New York, Vice President, and President, he was also a deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory, Police Commissioner of New York City, U. S. Civil Service Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Colonel of the Rough Riders, all by the age of 42, at which time he became the youngest man ever to hold the office of President.
He was one of the original members of the American Institute of Arts and Letters, and he was one of the first fifteen elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was a founder of the Boone and Crocket Club, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the Long Island Bird Club. He also established himself as a historian (he was President of the American Historical Association) and as a naturalist (he was considered the world’s authority on large American mammals and he led two major scientific expeditions for prominent American Museums, one in South America and one in Africa, each lasting many months).
Had he not become President, he would be remembered for his contributions in both of these fields. In between these busy enterprises, he found time to ranch in the West, hunt on several continents, raise a family of six rambunctious children, read a remarkable number of books (often one a day), write more than thirty-five himself, and develop an extraordinary network of friends and contacts, which he maintained mostly by mail, writing well over 150,000 letters. Theodore Roosevelt Presidential achievements are impressive.
In foreign affairs he led us into the arena of international power politics, thrusting aside the American tradition of isolationism, while on the domestic scene, he reversed the traditional federal policy of laissez-faire, and sought to bring order, social justice, and fair dealings to American industry and commerce. In all his policies as Chief Executive, he expanded the powers and responsibilities of the Presidential office, establishing the model of the modern Presidency which has been followed by most of his successors in the White House.
His specific achievements are numerous. Perhaps his greatest contribution was his work for conservation. During his tenure in the White House from 1901 to 1909, he designated 150 National Forests, the first 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 5 National Parks, the first 18 National Monuments, the first 4 National Game Preserves, and the first 21 Reclamation Projects. Altogether, in the seven-and-one-half years he was in office, he provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres, a land area equivalent to that of all the East coast states from Maine to Florida.
Aside from his conservation efforts, he “busted” trusts bringing the large corporations under the control of the people; he began the Panama Canal (see canal in action); he established the Department of Commerce and Labor; he negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War and thereby won the Nobel Peace Prize; he preached a “Square Deal” for all Americans, enabling millions to earn a living wage; he built up the Navy as the “Big Stick,” thus establishing America as a major world power; he reduced the National debt by over $90,000,000; and he secured the passage of the Elkins Act and the Hepburn Act for regulation of the railroads, the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act for consumer protection, and the Federal Employer’s Liability Act for Labor. In addition, he successfully mediated international disputes over Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Morocco.
He was the first world leader to submit a dispute to the Court of Arbitration at The Hague, and he was the first head of state to call for convening of what became the Second Hague Peace Conference at which he obtained for Latin American nations equal status with the rest of the world, and won the adoption of the Drago Doctrine, which outlawed the use of force in the collection of foreign debts. Towards the end of his life, he was a major force for military preparedness particularly as World War I loomed. Much of what he achieved affects each and every American today and his name and personality have become part of the collective icon for what America stands for at its best.