In my work recreating Theodore Roosevelt, I have come to the belief that he looked upon his role as a leader as he did as a father. His job, if done well, was to leave the world better for his family (which in his mind included the American people) and leave a good family name. His own Father, Theodore Roosevelt was the man he admired most and trying to emulate him by his own actions would be consistent with his beliefs.
“My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness. As we grew older, he made us understand that the same standard of clean living was demanded the boys as for the girls; that what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. With great love and patience, and the most generous sympathy and consideration, he combined insistence on discipline. He never physically punished me but once, but he was the only man of whom I was ever really afraid. I do not mean that it was a wrong fear, for he was entirely just, and we children adored him.”
Roosevelt felt strongly that family was important and that we all held a responsibility as Americans to bring up children in a way that promoted the opportunity to be a solid citizen. In an article he wrote in 1900 published in St Nicolas, he wrote:
“Of course, what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won’t be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud.”
What is the lesson we should learn from Roosevelt? That each of us contributes to the fabric of our shared country, and that it starts with how we treat our children and our neighbors children. We are the ones who help create the kind of men and women who have strong morals, strong ideals and ultimately, concern for one another.