Our world got a new glimpse of Theodore Roosevelt in November of 1906 when he did what no other sitting US president had done – visit a foreign country.
Roosevelt’s history-making excursion to Panama was to witness the progress of the Panama Canal. TR’s 17-day trip to Panama and Puerto Rico allowed the president to inspect the waterway that would connect Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean.
A famous photo captured the president at the controls of a massive machine used in the undertaking. TR’s opening address to Panama’s president Amador Guerra, was eagerly reported by both the American and Panamanian press.
“Mr. president, and citizens of Panama, for the first time in the history of the United States it has become advisable for a president of the United States to step on territory not beneath the flag of the United States, and it is on the territory of Panama that this has occurred; a symbol of the closeness of the ties that united the two countries, because of their peculiar relations to the gigantic enterprise of digging the Panama Canal.
In the admirable address of President Amador to which we have just listened, the president rightly said that the United States and Panama are partners in the great work that is now being done here on this isthmus.
We are joint trustees for all the world in doing that work, and I hereby pledge on behalf of my country to you and your people the assurance of the hardiest support, and of treatment, on a basis of a full and general equality between our two republics.
Nowhere else in the world at this moment is a work of such great importance taking place as here on the isthmus of Panama, for here is being performed the giant engineering feat of the ages, and it is a matter of deep gratitude that I am able to say that is being well and willingly performed!”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and recorded by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.