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Theodore Roosevelt
Nature Bulletin No. 430-A   October 23, 1971
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Theodore Roosevelt, 25th president of the United States and one of the greatest, was born on October 27, 1858. He became famous as a statesman, conservationist, writer, soldier, big game hunter and intrepid explorer. He endeared himself to the common people -- the plain folks - - because he was so very human, with an irrepressible sense of humor, and so intensely American. They admired his sincerity, great courage and driving vitality. They called him "Teddy", the Rough Rider, who scorned "weasel words" and carried a "Big Stick" to use on "malefactors of great wealth".

He was a vigorous apostle of The Strenuous Life and is remembered as an athlete who, during his terms in the White House, loved to box with his younger aides, play tennis, take long walks, and go on hunting trips in wild country. When army officers protested an order that they prove their fitness by riding 90 miles on horseback within 24 hours, he did it himself between two busy days. He was a human dynamo with amazing energy.

The most remarkable fact, however, is the contrast between what he was as a man and what he had been as a child. In his autobiography, Theodore Roosevelt wrote: "I was a sickly, delicate boy, suffered much from asthma, and frequently had to be taken away on trips to find a place to breathe". Often at night, he had to sit up in bed, gasping, with his father and mother trying to help him. Being very near-sighted, he was awkward and clumsy. When still quite small, he began to take an interest in natural history but, as he says, "the only things I could study were those I ran against or stumbled over".

When about 13 he took lessons in taxidermy and received his first gun. He was puzzled to find that "my companions seemed to see things to shoot at which I could not see at all. One day they read aloud an advertisement in huge letters on a distant billboard, and then I realized that something was the matter, for not only was I unable to read the sign but I could not even see the letters. I spoke of this to my father, and soon afterwards got my first pair of spectacles, which literally opened an entirely new world to me. I had no idea how beautiful the world was until I got those spectacles. .

Roosevelt always had great sympathy for children who, because of poor eyesight, poor hearing or some other physical handicap, "are often unjustly blamed for being obstinate or unambitious, or mentally stupid. " He soon learned to always carry an extra pair of spectacles in his pocket and, after some experiences on his ranch in North Dakota, had his spectacle cases made of steel. It was one of those steel cases that saved his life in 1912 when, speaking at Milwaukee during his campaign for presidency on the "Bull Moose" ticket, he was shot by a crazed fanatic.

Born of wealthy parents, Theodore Roosevelt could have become and lived as an idle invalid. Instead, he set out to overcome his handicaps. He proved the doctrine he always preached: that a man can do what he wills himself to do that a man with determination and courage can succeed in doing the difficult things and the finer things in life. By his words and deeds he kindled fires in people and revitalized the American nation.

Our conservation movement, for example, stems from the "Conference of Governors" which he gathered at the White House to consider, for the first time in America, the vital question of the conservation and use of the great fundamental sources of the nation's wealth -- its natural resources.

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