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Theodore Roosevelt: How Childhood Shaped His Presidency

Image: Theodore Roosevelt: How Childhood Shaped His Presidency
Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt at age 10, left and Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, in this undated picture. (AP Photo; MCT/Landov)

By    |   Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 06:19 PM

Theodore Roosevelt's childhood shaped much of his presidency and later life. Though he was raised in a wealthy family, he was raised to believe in helping people.

"They could have chosen to just cash their checks and be content, but that wasn't enough for them," filmmaker Ken Burns told Gotham Magazine, regarding his new seven-part, 14-hour documentary, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate Look."

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Roosevelt's ancestors believed that a life well lived was in service to others. His father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., a wealthy member of The Gilded Age, was a philanthropist who helped open hospitals, aid societies, and museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. For such charitable activities and their social activism in later years, "the Roosevelts were branded socialists, communists, [in the case of FDR] betrayers of their class, and anti-American," Burns said.

This ideal would fit Roosevelt's Square Deal domestic program that aimed to conserve natural resources, protect consumers, and reign in big business. His goal was to help the middle class and wrestle control from the wealthiest Americans, while still protecting businesses from the demands of organized labor.

Another aspect of Roosevelt's childhood that shaped him was his battle with asthma.

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As a child, Roosevelt spent much of his time studying indoors, save for the late-night carriage rides with his father in an attempt to get air in his lungs. However, through rigorous exercise and training, the asthma evaporated and he spent the rest of his life enjoying outdoor pursuits such as hiking.

Roosevelt's love for the environment never wavered. He formed the United States Forestry Service in 1905, and set aside lands for public use, such as National Parks, and irrigation projects. During his administration, the U.S. forest reserves increased from about 43 million acres to about 194 million acres.

He personally signed legislation that established five national parks: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sullys Hill, North Dakota; Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma. In 1908, he protected a large area of the Grand Canyon as a national monument.

"All life in the wilderness is so pleasant that the temptation is to consider each particular variety, while one is enjoying it, as better than any other," Roosevelt is quoted as saying by the National Park Service. "A canoe trip through the great forests, a trip with a pack-train among the mountains, a trip on snow-shoes through the silent, mysterious fairy-land of the woods in winter — each has its peculiar charm."

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Theodore Roosevelt's childhood shaped much of his presidency and later life. Though he was raised in a wealthy family, he was raised to believe in helping people.
theodore roosevelt, childhood, shaped, presidency
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2014-19-19
Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 06:19 PM
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