August 12, 2011

Happy Friday. Beautiful morning here and very changeable weather yesterday, from rain to shine.

We watched a History Channel program on Teddy Roosevelt that was quite good. You may recall that the four presidents depicted at Mt. Rushmore are Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and TR. By all accounts TR was a force of nature. He suffered from asthma as a boy and undertook a physical training program to build his strength. After a stint at Harvard, he worked at various jobs and entered politics, eventually becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice President, and then President when William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. TR was elected to a full term in 1904. He created five national parks and millions of acres of US forestry land and wildlife refuges. He intervened in a national coal miner strike and won concessions from the bosses for better pay and benefits. He promoted construction of the Panama Canal. He warned against the growing power of Germany and Japan. He campaigned for women’s suffrage, minimum wage, and other programs that his distant cousin FDR got enacted two decades later.

Roosevelt wrote 35 books, rode the Wyoming range for two years, went on a year-long safari in Africa, and traveled down an uncharted river in the Amazon. Along the way he won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between the Russians and Japan. And lest we forget, he rode up Kettle Hill near San Juan, Cuba, with his Rough Riders right behind him, winning a battle that led Spain to give up its last colony in the Western Hemisphere. Not many people pack as much into a life as Theodore Roosevelt had when he died age 60.

The voice-over speeches and correspondence are done pretty well by Richard Dreyfuss. TR lived when motion picture photography was coming into its own, and there is jerky film of him giving speeches, waving at crowds, and walking up and down steps of public buildings. Commentators include assorted biographers, some descendants, “Big Dog” Clinton and “Turd-Blossom” Rove. On two DVDs from Netflix.

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