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.

 

 

 

 

The challenge of our choosing our leadership in Theodore Roosevelt’s words.

“There are good men and bad men of all nationalities, creeds and colors; and if this world of ours is ever to become what we hope some day it may become, it must be by the general recognition that the man’s heart and soul, the man’s worth and actions, determine his standing.”

Speaking to the people

Speaking to the people

“Let us, as we value our own self-respect, face the responsibilities with proper seriousness, courage, and high resolve. We must demand the highest order of integrity and ability in our public men who are to grapple with these new problems. We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources. Of course we must remember not to judge any public servant by any one act, and especially should we beware of attacking the men who are merely the occasions and not the causes of disaster.”

“We cannot possibly do our best work as a nation unless all of us know how to act in combination as well as how to act each individually for himself.”

“No prosperity and no glory can save a nation that is rotten at heart. We must ever keep the core of our national being sound, and see to it that not only our citizens in private life, but, above all, our statesmen in public life, practice the old commonplace virtues which from time immemorial have lain at the root of all true national wellbeing.”

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

~ Theodore Roosevelt

IMAX National Park Adventure

I was fortunate enough to be part of the launch of the IMAX film “National Park Adventure” at the OMNI Theater at the Science Museum of Minnesota this past weekend.    This is a must see film for you and your family.  You will see the most amazing places this great country has to offer.

Along with beautiful scenery, you will understand the important role President Roosevelt played in the expansion of our National Parks, the legacy that is left behind for all to enjoy!    But don’t take my word for it.  Get in your car and find out for yourself.

A life lesson from The Buckhorn Exchange, Denver, Colorado

Some old west characters at the Buckhorn

Some old west characters at the Buckhorn

For many years my good friend Buffalo Bill Cody (Tom Doroff) and I traveled to Golden, Colorado to be part of the annual Buffalo Bill Birthday Bash.   This celebration included a competition for living history performers to show their stuff, be quizzed on their knowledge by subject matter experts and earn bragging rights.

After three years of driving 900 miles through blizzards either one way or both, Tom and I decided we had tested our guardian angels enough and hung up our competition hats.  All our wives and friends had as reference point to the event was our greatly amplified stories of the past.

That all changed when Tom wrote me to tell me he had decided that his travel schedule was going to have him in Colorado during the bash and did I want to join him and his better half?    It was going to be held for the first time in many years at our favorite restaurant (and historic landmark) in Denver, The Buckhorn Exchange.  The Buckhorn was a favorite destination of both the real Buffalo Bill Cody and Theodore Roosevelt.  (Many of the amazing preserved animal mounts there are from Roosevelt himself)

Soon, I had gathered my beautiful bride and our good friend Bat.  We all watched and enjoyed Tom perform to earn coveted 2nd place.

Because of my busy schedule, I seldom get the opportunity to watch others at their craft.  It’s so helpful for me to see how others bring to life the people they portray and gain insights so I can hone my own abilities.   I certainly love presenting TR to audiences across the U.S., but I also enjoy learning from others about characters from history I perhaps had never heard of whom I have come to appreciate because of these talented individuals.

It was at the first event I attended many years ago that Colorado’s Official Buffalo Bill Cody, Ralph Melfi, described us all  by a term I have really taken to heart =  Living History Performer.  I believe it really describes how those of us who re-create these important people should be. Living = Bringing to “life” a person from the past who has an important message for the future or who impacted our own way of life.  History = A past that is worth remembering because it has a meaning for us (sometimes positive and sometimes negative) presented in a way that is not a text book.  Performer = A reminder that we have a responsibility to tell the story in a way that engages, enthralls, amuses and delights the people who are watching.

I was lucky to see amazing talent who once again mentored me through their sharing of their skills.  Thank you to those who continue to inspire young and old with important messages from our ancestors of the past.

Thank you as well to the Buckhorn Exchange for preserving history at their location (and their awesome menu), and supporting those who do so outside of their wonderful restaurant.

 

TR’s Cowboy camp at a history event

TR Camp at Fort Kearny Outdoor Expo

TR Camp at Fort Kearny Outdoor Expo

I wrote this back in 2013 and stumbled upon it.  I decided it needed to be shared.  Enjoy!

Over the past almost two weeks I have been living a lucky cowboy’s life, sans cattle. I have slept each night in a canvas wall tent; dined by a chuck wagon; sang hymns and music of the times and have been surrounded by people who, like me, were dressed in clothes of a bye gone era.

My mornings started by stoking the stove in my tent, then dressing in layers that could be adjusted to the day. A fire would be built under my canvas tarp to cook my breakfast and I would stare out at the other camps around me, smoke billowing out of chimneys of the nearby tents and teepee’s. I would see the outline of a cowboy sitting by a fire with a large pot of coffee hanging over, licked by flames. The bacon would start to sizzle in my cast iron pan as I strolled to say hello for the day and beg a cup of their strong black eye-opener. We would talk of the night before, the day ahead and the weather expected and other gentle small talk that friendly neighbors do. Occasionally there might be a hot donut bubbling in oil on the fire, or a dutch oven full of fresh buttermilk biscuit’s eager to be shared.

During the day I shared Mr. Roosevelt.  People in modern clothes would ask me about my life as they tried to comprehend living in the past. In the evening, the crowds would leave and our makeshift village would once again slow to a normal pace. The blacksmith would deliver the goods he made for us; eggs would be traded for a loaf of bread; children would beg chores in exchange for money to buy candy from the store. We would sit together and share our food and eat until beyond full and then visit on about the day. Each step back to my camp would provide invitation into a camp to help them finish what they had cooked. I began to understand how my great-great grandfather the blacksmith of the town and a founder of the Vasa Lutheran church connected to a community.

My lungs have never ingested so much smoke. The clothes I wore smelled of it along with sweat and sweet earthen mud. Sometimes I was so cold that no amount of layers seemed to warm me when I was away from the fire. For three days everything I owned was wet from a storm that would not leave, my “fish skins” ( water proof duster ) doing all it could to keep me dry  – but the dampness working its magic to send shivers. The next moment I would be so hot as to not be able to control the perspiration. I would sponge myself with a wet cloth when I could using a handmade lavender soap given to me by a store keeper for telling him a story that made him laugh. Each day I sat at the end of the day and watched the sunset, just like I had watched the sunrise, and felt blessed to enjoy another day.

This morning I woke up in my own bed at home and soaked in a bath as a television blared in the background. The washing machine hums even now as I write this on my computer, a device of which for almost two weeks I did not touch.

My experience taught me that although the past was a tough life – in many ways, it was simpler. I chopped and hauled wood each day for my fire; gathered and hauled water by the river; and cooked slow meals made from pure ingredients. I boiled clothes when they got dirty. I worked hard each day and when the crowds had left, I stopped and read a book, the pages new and crisp and untouched for far too long. I learned from others skills I knew I should know, and facts that I never really appreciated – until I was able to not be distracted by modern life and could truly listen.

The switches that make it easy to change light from dark in my house were appreciated last night when I finally got home. But that campfire aglow and a song wafting down along the grass into my camp, for me, trumps any convenience that I have today.

The 100th Anniversary of our National Parks and Teddy

Teddy R and Adam Lindquist

Teddy R and our National Parks

There are many celebrations occurring cross the country this year for the 100th anniversary of our National Parks.   I, along with several of my TR friends, will be contributing to these events, partly because many mistakenly believe Roosevelt created the National Parks.  Here is where you might need to pull out your history books for a refresher.

The first National Park was Yellowstone, established in 1872, well before Roosevelt’s time.  During his Presidency,  Roosevelt doubled the number of National Parks  from 1901-1909.  So that begs the question, why is 2016 the 100th Anniversary?  Because it wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson that the creation of the National Park Service occurred.

So why is Teddy often credited with the parks creation?  Because it was Roosevelt’s contribution to conservation and wildlife preservation that resulted in a national awareness of the need to continue to preserve the American Landscape.  Three major contributions of Roosevelt led to this: His doubling the number of National Parks while President; The creation of Wildlife Refuges and; the Antiquities Act of 1906 which created our National Monuments.  We must also remember that it was Roosevelt who hired Gifford Pinchot as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service to help manage our forest resources.  During his Presidency, Roosevelt would help protect 230 Million acres of land.  There is a very real reason he is called the conservation President!

As part of my mission for 2016 and hopefully beyond, I encourage you to take this year to explore this amazing land.  Take your children and their children on the real kind of adventure.   One where electronic devices are used only to record the sights and sounds to remind us of our experience.  An adventure where our conversations revolve around the amazing landscape that surrounds us.  Our parks, local, state and National are our real treasures.   Preserved because you enjoy them – but enjoy them you must to keep their preservation.

President Roosevelt and the Christmas tree

Roosevelt-family-in-1895

You may have heard that President Roosevelt banned Christmas trees from the White House during his Presidency because he was worried about deforestation.    Did you know that his children however were not as enthralled with the idea!

In 1902, Roosevelt’s two youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, went outside and cut down a smallish tree right there on the White House grounds, snuck back into the White House, and hid it in a closet. The two boys decorated the tree in secret and even enlisted the help of an electrician on staff at the White House to help decorate it with lights. When Christmas morning came, Archie gathered his family outside the closet, turned on the switch, and opened the door to reveal the tree decorated with gifts for the entire family.

Roosevelt later described the incident in a letter to a friend:

“Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.”

Roosevelt was a devout Christian who also doted on his children.  That Christmas morning was undoubtedly a lesson for everyone!

A special thank you to the www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold for additional insight into this event!

Were you truly Thankful?

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Like many, I found myself traveling to a family function for Thanksgiving again this year. My favorite part of the holiday is not the carving of the Turkey or even the pie selection.  It has been consistently the blessing at the start of the meal, where we are asked to reflect on the previous year.  We are asked to think of those lost who are no longer able to be with us at the table and to reflect and be thankful for each other.    I have never taken that blessing lightly, as I truly believe it is important to be thankful .

When I read Roosevelt’s words, I am reminded of this:  What we have should be much smaller than what we give.

As we sat after dinner reading the advertising curriculars for Friday deals, I realized that our perspective of “giving” has changed.  We now believe that a stacking of more gifts under the tree is the measurement of giving – It is not.  The real things that my Grandparents and Parents gave me as gifts are the things that last: character, resourcefulness, courage, honesty and an ability to laugh at myself.  Those don’t come packaged in boxes. They are gifts that are given with love and recirculated to each other and the next generation in the most important way: Deeds.

“Of all the question’s that can come before this great nation……..there is non, which compares in importance to the great central task of leaving this land an even better land for our descendant’s than it is for us”

We should be Thankful for the gifts we have but all must do our part to make sure that we re-gift it again to the future generations.  The gifts I speak do not come in boxes, they come in deeds.

 

Dare to do mighty things!

Teedie Roosevelt at age 4

“Teedie” Roosevelt at age 4

Obstacles are something we all face in life and learning how to overcome them is an important lesson that helps build who we become.

Theodore Roosevelt was born with Asthma and many physicians at the time believed it was potentially fatal to the young boy.    His broken body meant that much of his time was spent in bed, reading about the thing that he desired most that he could not do – adventure.  His resolve was to find a way first in his mind to imagine adventure and then push his body to make the dream into a reality.

It was his personal drive fueled on by support from his father that allowed him to “Dare to do mighty things”.   If he failed, “at least he failed while daring greatly!”

This message is as important today to our children as it is a reminder to adults: That is important to dream and try and understand that success is not guaranteed but that failure is seldom permanent.

Roosevelt accomplished great things because he tried – and you can too!

 

 

Lasting Impact

TR and Lincoln. Photo by Mike Huerkamp

TR and Lincoln.
Photo by Mike Huerkamp

These past few days I had TR camp set up at HistoryFest in Mankato, Minnesota.  This is my 4th year doing so and I really appreciate this event because of its visionary, Jack McGowan.  Jack decided that children who are laughing and playing while also learning will take that more to heart than through a standard history lesson.  This year, he celebrated his 20th year of having history presenters and games at his farm, where local schools bus in 4th graders from across the district and many more across the State.

What is special beyond his vision is his impact.  During the past year, local high school seniors were required to write a paper on something they have done that they felt was highly memorable and special to them.  Twenty five percent of the students wrote their stories on Historyfest.    While that number is impressive, remember this: students in the school district go to the event in 4th grade!  What a testimonial!

We all love great testimonials and thankfully over the years I have been blessed with many from students and teachers.  In reality, Roosevelt is a pretty impressive part of our American heritage and a great role model with fun stories.   But Historyfest proves to me that interactive learning leaves a imprint that lasts longer and creates an impression that children carry with them.  It shows the importance of lessons that include the value of hard work and perseverance that our fathers and forefathers needed to shape our country.  It allows children to find that place that resonates with them so that they can go back to the classroom and research more.  I hope that some students learn that our past leaders may be better measuring sticks for what they will need in the future, as they chose their leaders.

As part of TR Camp, I invite the students into my camp after a talk outside to see inside the tent to understand how the President traveled when he was on Safari or camping.   The tent is full of antiques and TR memorabilia so they have a lot to see!  During this event, I had a young boy who was deep in the back of a class.  When other students went inside, he stayed behind.  I asked him f he was going to look as well.

“I hate history” He told me.

“Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it” I said.

“Yeah, I heard that” he said, arms crossed.

We spoke for several minutes, just he and I.   I started to explain to him the lesson of the lemming: That it is sometimes very good to stand alone from the pack and observe, but to observe the important things – the things that will help you in life.   As we spoke man-to-man his arms slowly lowered, his face turned from grimace to grin.  After his class was exiting he went into the camp and once inside asked great questions just as a new class started to gather and sit on my Safari boxes outside for their starting discussion about TR.

“Thank you Mr. Roosevelt” he smiled as he rushed out to catch-up with his class.