Theodore Roosevelt, an insightful mind

Photo by Caleb Gregory

Photo by Caleb Gregory

As a TR, you need to spend a great deal of time reading.  One of my favorite past-times is reading quotes from Roosevelt.  Since he was a prolific author and letter writer (38 books and over 150,000+ letters while President) he has a lot a researcher can review.   The breadth of Roosevelt’s wisdom covers many areas, and I often marvel at his insights.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“Appraisals are where you get together with your team leader and agree what an outstanding member of the team you are, how much your contribution has been valued, what massive potential you have and, in recognition of all this, would you mind having your salary halved”.  

“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life”.

“If there is not the war, you don’t get the great general; if there is not a great occasion, you don’t get a great statesman; if Lincoln had lived in a time of peace, no one would have known his name”

It is written that Roosevelt could speak to just about anyone and find a common ground, but that his ability to converse with the best minds of the world on complex topics was extraordinary.  Because he was so well read, but more importantly, curious, Roosevelt was able to connect, learn and find value in almost any conversation.   It is something I wish I could do as well.




Heavenly Iowa and yet another life lesson

Roosevelt! the play

Roosevelt! the play

I was fortunate to premier Roosevelt! at the Donna Reed Theater in Denison, Iowa this past week.  I gave two performances there – one with almost 350 fourth and fifth graders who learned about their 26th President and many of his adventures.  They were so well behaved that both Mrs. Roosevelt and I couldn’t believe it.  I was told afterwards that usually these children are fidgeting in their seats, but that they were so engaged in the stories that they didn’t move a muscle!  We did an evening performance as well, which went great with much discussion in the hallway after.

I also performed at The Kaleidoscope Factory in Pocahontas, Iowa the following day to a fun crowd.

Many years ago I read a book entitled “Blue Highways” by William Least Heatmoon about traveling the back roads of America.  After a very scary near-death experience on the Interstate, I have for almost 3 decades preferred the road less traveled.  My beautiful wife is great at hunting out places to see when we drive the unbeaten path and one such trip she found a factory that made Kaleidoscopes.  It was in a very small town and when we stopped we ended up spending several hours with the owner.  When he asked what I did, I told him I was just starting to portray Theodore Roosevelt and he offered at that moment to “Hire me someday”.  Five years later I received an email from him saying he was ready – if I was.  He had moved to a larger town, and was converting his shop  – when he could – a few evenings a month into a specialty live entertainment venue for performances.

When we arrived there was sawdust on the floors and tables set up for manufacturing!  Within a few hours, we had converted the whole place to a small theater complete with seating and a stage.

Life lesson From Roosevelt “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”

Life Lesson from Leonard: “I just do what I can, with what I have, where I am”

Please take a moment to learn about this amazing man by visiting him at and like him on Facebook at The Kaleidoscope Factory.    I highly recommend one of his handmade scopes – they are a great way spend a few minutes of enjoyment each week without the need for batteries! (Had mine for over 5 years so I know!)

New Year with Gusto

On the Set with Roosevelt

On the Set with Roosevelt

The new year is starting with a very busy schedule of events, theater and more.

I am finalizing a one man play entitled “Roosevelt”! that will premier at the Donna Reed Theater in February.  This is an exciting time as I pull together the set, finalize the script and add the elements that make a play engaging, memorable and entertaining.  Roosevelt himself said “It is better to wear out than rust out” and there are many days where being worn out is how I finish my day.

When I envisioned how the set would look, I decided to recruit my artist friend to help me develop the concept.  We both agreed that an easy to set-up set was important, but that it had to truly set the stage of the “largess” of the man.  As you can see by a few of the elements as we stand in front of  a portion of the set, I found the right helpers!  The amazing part is that two people can snap together the panels in less than 10 minutes and entire ensemble stores flat and is designed to get through a standard door. (it was designed for theaters, so that other part was more about getting it out of the house once we built it)

This set will be used in inside events I do only, and mostly Theaters.  However, there may be a few opportunities where I could include it in other Roosevelt presentations, such as the one I just did for the Mountain Lake Historical Society, which you can read about in the “Travels with Teddy” portion of this blog.

My calendar is filling fast and I am blessed to be able to recreate a most amazing man.  I am looking forward to the adventures!

Theodore Roosevelt Taxidermist and Naturalist

Born on October 27, 1858 in New York City, Roosevelt grew up in a world of wealth and privilege. Young Theodore however was found to be afflicted at a young age with Asthma as well as other illnesses. Because of his health, Roosevelt spent much of his childhood years bed ridden or at least confined to his home. He often slept propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early years. Despite his illnesses, he was hyperactive and often mischievous.

TR at Harvard

TR at Harvard

During severe bout of asthma attacks, his family would feed him strong coffee, thought in the day to be a proper treatment. His father would also would take him by carriage out of the city, so he could get fresh air. It was here that TR developed a love of nature. Some suggest this was partially psychological, as it gave him a chance to be alone with his father and also was the place where he could breath freely.

The times that young “Teedie” was healthy, he would explore the woods and trails and observe bugs, birds and animals. His lifelong interest in zoology was formed at age seven upon seeing a dead seal at a local market. After obtaining the seal’s head, the young Roosevelt and two of his cousins formed what they called the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”. Learning the rudiments of taxidermy from John Bell, (a famous taxidermist and colleague of wildlife artist John James Audubon) he filled his makeshift museum with animals that he killed or caught, studied, and prepared for display. At age nine, he codified his observation of insects with a paper titled “The Natural History of Insects”. At age 12, he donated some of them – a dozen mice, a bat, a turtle, four birds’ eggs and the skull of a red squirrel – to the American Museum of Natural History, founded by his father. Eleven years later, he presented 622 carefully preserved bird skins to the Smithsonian.

His first experience in a “public” school was when Theodore Roosevelt entered Harvard shortly before his eighteenth birthday. He originally chose to study natural history and had considered a teaching career. From the day of Theodore’s arrival in Cambridge, he failed to fit into the Harvard mold. His clothes were considered too flashy for the conservatives, who also disapproved of his recently grown sideburns. His college rooms were filled with his specimens and mounted animals. Faculty members who taught Roosevelt soon learned to treat him warily. Once Roosevelt asked so many questions during a natural history lecture that the professor exclaimed, “Now look here, Roosevelt, let me talk, I’m running this course!”

In 1878, Theodore’s world collapsed. His father and mentor, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., died shortly after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. The young man was devastated by this loss but resumed his studies. His father’s death changed the direction of Theodore’s life. When he returned to Harvard in the fall of 1878, he switched his major to history and government. He felt this would be the way for him to honor his father’s memory by pursing a career in public service. Though politics was considered “beneath” wealthy, young gentlemen, Roosevelt saw it as an opportunity to change laws for the betterment of society. He later wrote that his father influenced his life more than any other person and that he was the “greatest man he ever knew.”