In observance of President’s Day, Information Systems Manager William Duke recommends The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”George Santayana, 1905
If George is right, we should be working hard to make history interesting so our children will learn it. Instead, history books are about the best sleep aids on the shelf.
The present moment is compelling, exciting even, until it becomes history. Then it’s as dull as dirt. Does anyone really want to hear another of Grandpa’s WWII stories?
But, what if there was a history book that told a massively compelling story?
What if Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt rose from the pages to fight corruption in the New York legislature? Then he made friends with a Democratic Governor, Grover Cleveland, to get rid of machine politicians that were grossly corrupt? Then, just as he began to make real headway, he lost his wife in childbirth the same night his mother died, and sunk into a depression so deep that he abandoned politics and disappeared into the Dakotas to kill every animal within range of his guns, and never spoke his wife’s name again?
Wait, did I say Governor Cleveland? Oh, yes, Grover was the governor when they met, and worked together against political corruption. Only later did Teddy’s Republican party lose the Presidential race to Cleveland after the Republicans, despite Roosevelt’s best efforts, tried to elect the most corrupt of politicians. Not because the candidate was corrupt—cheers to that—but because he didn’t pay attention when some pastor pointed out Cleveland’s attachment to rum, and prohibition got ascribed to the more corrupt politician because he was standing next to the pastor at the time.
And all of that happens before Roosevelt becomes the Secretary of the Navy, plans the naval war against Spain, resigns to form the “Rough Riders” and fights the Spanish in Cuba, comes back and gets elected governor, gets maneuvered into becoming the Vice President of the United States, then becomes the President when McKinley is assassinated. All of that happens before the history books take up Roosevelt as he became President.
And the story just keeps getting better. Roosevelt’s life is a fascinating adventure worthy of your next deep read. There’s a reason it takes almost 900 pages to tell it.