Springtime comes to Teddy Roosevelt Camp

TR writing table

TR writing table

I have to admit that while I enjoy traveling by snowshoe or ski in the winter, I find myself daydreaming for the spring, so I can spend some days in camp.

My first TR Camp of the season is usually in Nebraska at an Outdoor Expo.  Here, local school children are bused in to explore activities that hopefully will excite them into a life time of outdoor pursuits. These include kayaking, archery, fishing, identifying animal tracks, camping, shooting and many more.  During the day, TR Camp gets very busy, with children visiting me and sharing their adventures of the day as I share mine of a lifetime. By the time they visit me they get an idea of how those experiences can come together to create a life-long adventure, which helps in the overall development of that wonderful attribute – Character.  I try to embody that lesson so that they understand how those elements came together to create the leader we appreciate as Roosevelt, and the importance he placed on the natural environment in doing so. Based on the feedback, thankfully that message is being well received.  But as much as I enjoy TR Camp during the hustle and bustle during the morning and afternoon, I appreciate it as much for its solitude at the end of the day.

When the crowd leaves, camp becomes eerily quiet. I am often the only one there, other than the occasional Park Ranger making sure everything is secure.

This time of year, it is not unusual for a storm cloud to pass over, quickly cooling the air and dropping rain that taps lightly on my canvas roof. The cool air finds me stoking the wood stove and settling by my writing desk to read or jot my notes from the day. The view out my door is a park – an open field or river that gurgles as I read or write.  Sometimes, spring winds whistle through the tree branches or if the sun peaks out it alerts the birds to squawk and explore.

The crowd, including the other exhibitors have left. Most are booked into a warm hotel room back in town with a bath, electricity and multiple television channels of nothing to watch.  When they come back in the morning they find me sitting by my fire with a hot cup of coffee.  Each seems shocked when I answer “yes” to their question “Do you sleep here”?  I have never questioned my sanity for “roughing it”.

I invite them into my warm tent and pour them a steaming cup of coffee and we talk for a bit about the day before and the day to come.  When they leave I pity them for missing the sunset the past evening or the amazing sunrise that morning or the squall that pulled at my tent pegs during the night.

I will let Roosevelt finish this best.   “Nowhere, not even at sea, does a man feel more lonely than when riding over the far-reaching, seemingly never-ending plains; and after a man has lived a little while on or near them, their very vastness and loneliness and their melancholy monotony have a strong fascination for him.”

The American Boy

One of my favorite Roosevelt speeches is entitled “The American Boy”.

Boy Scouts at Sagamore Hill

The American Boy speech supports the idea of raising young men of virtue and character.  It supports the idea that in order to be a good man, he must first be raised to be a good boy.

I suspect a great deal of the speech echos his father’s sentiments to young Thee.    His father was a true role model of manly virtues that provided a path for his son to later lead a nation.    I believe Roosevelt considered his job as President as akin to that of a father.   His role was to provide the best guidance as possible as the national grew.

“What we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man.

The boy can best become a good man by being a good boy–not a goody-goody boy, but just a plain good boy.

I do not mean that he must love only the negative virtues; I mean that he must love the positive virtues also. ‘Good,’ in the largest sense, should include whatever is fine, straightforward, clean, brave and manly.

The best boys I know–the best men I know–are good at their studies or their business, fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrongdoing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless.

Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable.

If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society.

He can not do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have a thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice and fair dealing.

In short, in life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard: don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard.”


The Pledge of Allegiance

When I visit schools, I am always pleased when they say “The Pledge of Allegiance”.

TR at Roosevelt Elementary

The future is watching.

I believe there should be a flag at each business and place of worship with a requirement that each day start with that pledge.   I do not say this as mere patriotic symbol, but as a way for all of us to reflect on the country we share. The pledge is meant to remind us why we all must interact with each other with human decency.

I fear decency is the thing that is being removed from our democratic process and has tainted our perceptions of acceptable treatment to our fellow citizens.  Equally worse, it has poisoned how those across the globe view our country.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands

This Republic can be an amazing place when our people work together, but when we lose sight of being United and instead separate ourselves into fractional divisions, we threaten the very fabric of the pledge and nation alike.

“One Nation under God, Indivisible”

We are becoming divisible.  Our fellow citizens are telling us so.  Black lives do matter  – and it is sad state when any group feels the requirement through violence to remind us.  The realty is that all lives matter and all voices matter as well.  We must co-exist and work together to solve these issues and appreciate the others viewpoint.  That is not easy to do but it is necessary to do.

Roosevelt himself warned us:

“The death-knell of the republic IS rung as soon as the active power becomes lodged in the hands of those who seek, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.”

“With Liberty and Justice for All.”

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” (TR)

How can we teach our children to treat each other with decency when we don’t lead by example?  How can children believe in the future when the people who want to lead us cannot demonstrate decency to each other?

Perhaps it is time to take a pledge to do so.  I have a suggestion of a place to start, and almost any grade school student would be happy to teach it.