Friday, March 28, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life

by Kathleen Dalton

Ms. Dalton starts out her biography of Theodore Roosevelt by pointing out his legacy as a caricature--all spectacles, mustache and teeth. She then goes on to present him as a real human being with a significant legacy in American history, but he comes across as no less a character. As she tells the tale, Theodore Roosevelt was a force of nature. He was raised in wealth and imbued with a sense of duty and an obsession to be strong and manly. Roosevelt's father set the tone for his life. Coming from wealthy stock, the elder Roosevelt devoted much free time to philanthropy and social reform. When he died in Theodore's 20th year, he left a high standard for his eldest son to achieve. But the younger Roosevelt managed to go far beyond his father's contributions.

The political climate, in Roosevelt's younger days, saw the rise of civil reform. The liberal Republican party tended to advocate for such, at least in Democratic strongholds, while also becoming the party of finance and business. Roosevelt tried to straddle the middle, having friends and advisors on both ends of the party. He was a great politician when it came to relating to the common people, but his tendency to speak his heart kept getting him in trouble. After his presidency he grew more and more liberal. In one sense he was powerless, yet he was also a man who could not be ignored.

All in all, Ms. Dalton has crafted a wonderful book. She really painted a picture of Theodore Roosevelt and the time in which he lived. I've often said that of the American presidents, John Quincy Adams was the man I admire most. But I may have to re-evaluate that in light of this biography. There were plenty of things about Theodore Roosevelt I find repulsive, but I can't help but admire his character, faith and willingness to stand up for his ideals and the needs of others.

Do check it out.
LibraryThing link

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