Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt

6:42 AM, 8:42 AM, 3:50 PM*, 5:44 PM, AND 7:50 PM* CT
  • Hosted by Steve Stark

Our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, was a lauded statesman, orator, and storyteller. He wrote more books than any other president and, indeed, more than most authors and intellectuals. To commemorate him and his North Dakota legacy, Roosevelt scholar and re-enactor Steve Stark has made selections from his speeches, books, and letters for a special Dakota Datebook series. Throughout 2019, listen for Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt in the regular Dakota Datebook time slots. 

*Airtimes during Main Street may vary.

Funding for this series is provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

This week in March of 1903, President Roosevelt created America’s first federal bird refuge. Pelican Island, Florida had long been a favorite haven for beautiful shore and wading birds where mangroves hugged the waters of the small island. Pelicans, peafowls, flamingos and spoonbills adorned the beach.

March 4th was Inauguration Day in the early 20th century, and on this date in 1901 Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as Vice President under William McKinley. Tragically, McKinley was shot six months into his second term and died eight days later. The stunned 42-year-old TR was sworn into office, becoming the youngest president in US history.

People often imagine that Theodore Roosevelt started the National Park system, but it actually began much sooner. On this date in 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law.

However, Roosevelt did create five national parks doubling the number, and he’s known as the “Conservation President.” He protected over 230 million acres of public land, setting aside 150 national forests, the five national parks, America’s first 18 national monuments, the first 51 federal bird refuges, and our first game preserves.

Yesterday, on President’s Day, we celebrated the February birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The observance often recalls the apocryphal cherry tree story of youngster Washington proclaiming “I cannot tell a lie.”

24-year-old Theodore Roosevelt suffered a sorrow of volcanic proportions in February of 1884. Responding to an urgent cable from his brother, TR hastened from Albany to New York City where his wife Alice lived with his mother, Mittie.  Alice was in a dangerous state of health after giving birth to their first child. In another room, Mittie was on the threshold of death from Bright’s Disease.

President Abraham Lincoln was a friend with Theodore Roosevelt’s parents. As a youngster at his grandfather’s house, young six-year-old “Teedie” (as he was called), witnessed Lincoln’s coffin procession along New York City’s Broadway.

Lincoln was TR’s presidential hero. Fittingly, these two venerated chief executives earned their destiny to be memorialized in stone, side by side on Mount Rushmore, representing two presidents unified in character and moral leadership.

Theodore Roosevelt’s public speeches in the early 1900s explored diverse topics for a variety of citizen constituencies. Some of his themes back then are less likely to be addressed by contemporary American presidents.  This week in 1905 provided one of those occasions – when TR spoke at Lutheran Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC.

Since his days as a small boy, Theodore Roosevelt, was captivated by the natural world, especially by the animals. He devoured books – an enthrallment that enhanced his entire life. His later sojourns and retreats to western Dakota Territory, while reveling in cowboy escapades and cattle operations, also provided feet-on-the-ground and eyes-to-the-sky opportunities with nature.

Like all presidents before and after his time in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt weathered both ardent supporters and equally opinionated detractors in the public and the press – yet TR emerged from his duties as chief executive saying no one had ever enjoyed being president as much as he did. 

Despite the criticisms and his tussles with newspapers, he maintained a firm conviction about the American citizen’s role, and even duty, in evaluating presidential performance.

America and the world lost one of its most fascinating and productive citizens with the passing of Roosevelt on January 6, 1919.  His health had become aggravated by rheumatic fever, mandating a month’s stay in hospital. He battled fever, vertigo and anemia, and could no long hear in his left ear. He had trouble with his balance, and never regained sight in one eye from one of his bouts of presidential boxing.

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