Republican President Theodore Roosevelt packed his bags and left the left the White House in March 1909. Seven and a half years as the country’s chief executive had hampered his ability to enjoy the great outdoors. That is not to say that he had been locked in the presidential mansion, but his term had been marred by bumpy economic times extracting focus and attention that otherwise would have been allocated to the enjoyment of those expanses of natural scenery and wildlife habitat that have become his legacy.
In the aftermath of the Panic of 1907, the recurring theme of Wall Street greed and oppression had meshed with the “too big to fail” mentality of New York-based banks and corporations, President Roosevelt had seen big business rebuff his progressive ideas. Despite opposition, by the time his term ended, he had filed 40 trust-busting lawsuits, secured land for the construction of the Panama Canal, quashed German aggression in South America, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomacy during the Russo-Japanese War and placed 210 million acres of our natural treasures into the National Park Service.
Make no mistake, despite his record of populist and progressive action of regulating railroads, protecting Americans through the Pure Food and Drug Act, protecting natural resources from exploitation and busting large corporate trusts, Roosevelt was no liberal. Theodore Roosevelt called the shots as he saw them through his trademark bipartisan spectacles. He not only believed in a Common Good, he acted upon it.
On August 31, 1910, the former President returned from African safari long enough to stop by Osawotomie, Kansas and deliver an address that may rank as in the top 4 or 5 speeches in the history of our nation and became known as the “New Nationalism” speech.
By nature, we seek media and literature that incestuously reinforces our limited understanding and restricted perception. We must overcome that natural tendency. The text of Roosevelt’s New Nationalism address is readily available on the internet and at any library. If you care about our country, the people who inhabit it and the ones that we hope to leave it to, I urge you to spend a few minutes reading, contemplating and sharing it with others.