Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. (/ˈrzəvɛlt/ ROH-zə-velt) (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American politician, author, naturalist, soldier, explorer, and historian who served as the 26th President of the United States. He was a leader of the Republican Party (GOP) and founder of the Progressive Party insurgency of 1912. He is known for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity. Born into a wealthy family in New York City, Roosevelt was a sickly child who suffered from asthma. To overcome his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. He was home-schooled and became an eager student of nature. He attended Harvard College, where he studied biology, boxed, and developed an interest in naval affairs. He quickly entered politics, determined to become a member of the ruling class. In 1881, he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he became a leader of the reform faction of the GOP. His book, The Naval War of 1812 (1882), established him as a learned historian and writer.

When Roosevelt's first wife, Alice, died two days after giving birth in February 1884, and when his mother died the same day in the same house, he was heartbroken and in despair. Roosevelt temporarily left politics and became a cattle rancher in the Dakotas. When blizzards destroyed his herd, he returned to New York City politics, running in and losing a race for mayor. In the 1890s, he took vigorous charge of the city police as New York City Police Commissioner. By 1897, under President William McKinley, Roosevelt was, in effect, running the Navy Department. When the war with Spain broke out in 1898, he helped form the famous Rough Riders, a combination of wealthy Easterners and Western cowboys. He gained national fame for his courage during the war in Cuba. Roosevelt then returned to United States and was elected Governor of New York. He was the GOP nominee for Vice President with William McKinley, campaigning successfully against radicalism and for prosperity, national honor, imperialism (regarding the Philippines), high tariffs and the gold standard.

Roosevelt became President after McKinley was assassinated in 1901. He was inaugurated at age 42, making him the youngest person to become president. He attempted to move the GOP toward Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. In November 1904, he was reelected in a landslide against conservative Democrat Alton Brooks Parker. Roosevelt called his domestic policies a "Square Deal", promising a fair deal to the average citizen while breaking up monopolistic corporations, holding down railroad rates, and guaranteeing pure food and drugs. He was the first president to speak out on conservation, and he greatly expanded the system of national parks and national forests. By 1907, he propounded more radical reforms, which were blocked by the conservative Republicans in Congress. His foreign policy focused on the Caribbean, where he ordered the construction of the Panama Canal and guarded it. There were no wars, but his slogan, "Speak softly and carry a big stick" was underscored by expanding the navy and sending the Great White Fleet on a world tour. He negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

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