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
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
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
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
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Update: June 2012