Accomplishments of Theodore Roosevelt
I’ve always been fascinated with Theodore Roosevelt. I suppose that’s because history records him as fearless. He’s credited with wearing many hats, such as soldier, outdoorsman, father and statesman.
Beyond the mystique of the man, which is shrouded in legend, exists a core set of convictions that helped Theodore Roosevelt change the presidency. I’ve studied our 26th Commander in Chief plenty. Time and again, what emerges is a picture of strength, grace, cunning whit and deep intelligence.
While the public at large sometimes ranks him as a narcissist, I’m not so sure that label is fair. That’s because in the clinical sense, narcissists are known only to care about themselves and have zero concern for the welfare of others.
But as you will see below, Theodore Roosevelt’s substantial accomplishments aren’t in keeping with self-centered behaviors. In fact, quite the opposite.
Some people, perhaps understandably, confuse a strong personality with arrogance. But was it really narcissism that caused Teddy Roosevelt (TR) to reverse the trend of the Gilded Age, which is marked by a string of weak presidents that cow tailed by congress?
I’d say no.
Going by the historical record, TR was an active chief executive, utilizing the powers of his office and his own personal popularity to create positive change. In fact, he is largely responsible for propelling the United States through the early days of the 20th Century. Perhaps that’s why many consider him the forerunner of our modern Presidents?
What follows is a major rundown of 15 major accomplishments of President Theodore Roosevelt that might surprise you. I’ve tried to weave in some biographical data as a gateway to insight. My hope is to offer a mosaic of the man, which should be viewed through the prism of history.
Theodore Roosevelt Quick Facts
Born: October 27, 1858, New York City
Died: January 6, 1919
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio male
Eye Color: Pale blue
College: Harvard University
1. The Youngest President to Date
Although John F. Kennedy holds the title for being the youngest President ever elected into office at 43 years old, Theodore Roosevelt is still the youngest U.S. President to date. He took office at 42 years old, following the assassination of William McKinley for whom he served as Vice President.
While being President of the United States is quite an accomplishment, Roosevelt had many other important jobs and positions long before being President.
Roosevelt was a popular author having written The Naval War of 1812, The Winning of the West, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, and more. He served as the President of the Board of Commissioners for the New York City Police Department from 1895 to 1897.
He then served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for over a year, from 1897 to 1898, until being elected Governor of New York later that same year. Eventually, he would serve as Vice President under William McKinley until taking over as President after McKinley’s untimely death.
2 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
In 1906, Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was given this award, the first statesman ever to receive it, because of his work in negotiating peace for the Russo-Japanese war which took place from 1904 to 1905.
Roosevelt also used arbitration to resolve a dispute with Mexico. Although many people felt he was well justified in receiving the award, it didn’t come without some controversy.
Some people felt that Roosevelt was an imperialist who helped to take over the Philippines. Some countries even felt that politics were in play and that giving this award to Roosevelt was more of a political move than bestowing an honor on a worthy individual.
However, when looking at his many other accomplishments, the award seems to have gone to the right man.
3. The Meat Inspection Act & Pure Food and Drug Act
The year 1906 would see the publication of the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, an American novelist and journalist. During 1904 Sinclair had been paid to go to work undercover in the meat packing industry to find out what really went on behind closed doors.
His book would become a best seller, depicting harsh working conditions for many immigrants and an appalling handling of meat amidst unsanitary conditions.
Listening to his public, Theodore Roosevelt passed the Meat Inspection Act later that year. The Act included inspection requirements, including: seeing animals before slaughter, separating diseased animals from healthy ones, destroying condemned meat, and sanitary inspections.
This same year President Roosevelt also signed the Pure Food and Drug Act, putting similar inspection and safety requirements on other foods and drugs.
4. The Roosevelt Corollary
In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was a loose regulatory doctrine that was intended to keep European imperialism from overshadowing the U.S., Caribbean Islands, and South American countries. While it was little more than a piece of paper to European powers, it began a solid statement of U.S. foreign policy.
President Roosevelt added to the Monroe Doctrine establishing America as a type of police force for the region. Many people were concerned about Europe invading countries like Venezuela and the corollary stated that as a last resort the U.S. would intervene on behalf of any of these countries.
5. Medal of Honor Recipient
President Theodore Roosevelt received a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously in 2001. Although he didn’t receive the recognition during his lifetime, he was awarded the medal due to his acts of bravery on the field while serving in the U.S. Army.
During the battle of San Juan Hill in the Republic of Cuba, Roosevelt led his men up the hill while being shot at from the enemy. He was the first to reach the top and kill one of the enemy’s shooters hiding in the trenches, which allowed his men to continue up the hill.
6. National Parks
When it comes to nature and the great outdoors, no one has done more to preserve its greatness than Theodore Roosevelt. Growing up he was fascinated with taxidermy and later became an avid hunter.
During his time as president, he established five national parks, created 51 federal sanctuaries for birds, created four national game reserves, dedicated over 100 million acres of national forests, and created 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon. To date, the National Park Service has dedicated more units to his name than any other person.
It’s also widely known that the “Teddy Bear” was named after Theodore Roosevelt. While hunting in Mississippi, Roosevelt didn’t see any bears. His hunting partners tracked one down and tied it to a tree for Roosevelt to shoot it. Feeling that was unsportsmanlike, he refused, but had the bear shot to put it out of its misery. A candy shop owner put two bears in his shop window and got permission to call them Teddy’s bears. Their popularity took off and over 100 years later they remain a favorite childhood toy.
7. Roosevelt’s Square Deal
President Roosevelt’s Square Deal consisted of consumer protection, control of large corporations, and conservation of natural resources. The goal of the Square Deal was to help middle class citizens while still allowing businesses to be free from outrageous demands that often came with organized labor.
Roosevelt felt strongly that the government needed to intervene between large companies who were concerned with little more than obtaining wealth and defrauding the public to their benefit.
8. The Elkins and Hepburn Acts
The Elkins Act was passed in 1906 and was closely related to Roosevelt’s Square Deal. This Act stopped the practice of railroads giving rebates to companies they favored. By doing this, the railroads had put many smaller farmers into situations where they didn’t have equal access to the railroads.
Later came the Hepburn Act, a response to public outcry over unregulated increases of rates. The Act also stopped the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) but strengthened Federal regulations over the railroad industry.
9. Low Inflation
During both his first and second term, President Roosevelt was able to keep inflation low, with the rate increasing each term by only five percent. Lower single digit inflation is often associated with good, healthy economic growth and during his time in office, inflation was an average of one percent per year.
From 1902 to 1908, inflation fluctuated between five percent and negative two percent.
10. The Panama Canal
President Roosevelt had been an ardent supporter of building a canal which would link the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean by cutting through Panama. The 48-mile stretch goes through the Isthmus of Panama and has been a prominent addition to international maritime trading. Although the canal had initially been an idea as far back as 1534, it wouldn’t be until France tried building it that the idea of a viable canal became possible.
Although this was a project France was working on, they soon gave up due to the high death rate of workers and multiple engineering issues. Roosevelt successfully took over the project in 1904 and the canal was finally finished in 1914.
Approximately 1,000 ships used the canal its first year. Currently, over 14,00 use it yearly. Being one of the greatest and largest engineering projects to ever be undertaken, the canal is often referred to as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, thanks largely in part to President Roosevelt.
11. The Newlands Reclamation Act
In 1902, the Newlands Reclamation Act was a federal law that Roosevelt helped to pass to provide necessary funding for irrigation. Initially, it started with the first 13 states, but additional states were then included. Funding came from the sale of semi-arid public land that had been owned by the government.
Eventually, the Act stimulated agriculture and transformed many states out West, creating good working land from formerly useless land. States like Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and South Dakota all benefited from the Act and now produce a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
12. Strengthened the U.S. Navy
From his time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to his time as President, Theodore Roosevelt felt very strongly about the U.S. Navy. During those years he increased the size and power of the U.S. Navy and sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world for over a year, showcasing America’s new power and naval capabilities.
Although the U.S. Navy began with 90 small ships, it quickly grew to a modern navy with many fighting vessels, all due to Roosevelt.
13. America’s First Brown Belt in Judo
Theodore Roosevelt would be the first person in America to earn a brown belt in judo. Loving a good fight, he would often show off his skills during dinners with important dignitaries. He had mats put into the White House and he could be found sparring with anyone willing to fight with him, including his wife.
14. Got First Workmen’s Compensation Laws Passed
Injuries to workers were often common in the railroad and textile industries. As railroads expanded and textile factories became more abundant, workers began to get hurt in larger numbers. Prior to the FELA Act which held companies liable for injuries on the job, workers would have to sue to try and get compensation.
Workers still had to prove the company was negligent, but the new laws supported by President Roosevelt made the way easier for workers to be compensated when the company was at fault.
15. Created the U.S. Forest Service
Along with being a conservationist, President Roosevelt protected public lands and wildlife. The United States Forest Service (USFS) was created in 1905 and operates under the Department of Agriculture.
One of his main goals of establishing the USFS was to create sustainability of the country’s resources. He wanted the forests to be around for continued use for years to come, and his name still resonates with conservation and the great outdoors.
Summing Things Up
As you can see from all that has been described here, Theodore Roosevelt was an accomplished President. And it’s likely none of these would have been possible had it not been for the strength of his personal character.
If you are interested in learning more about TR, a great place to start is by reading his own autobiography. You’ll be able to assess the man using Roosevelt’s own words. You can pick this book up at some stores or on Amazon.
I hope you found this piece on Theodore Roosevelt’s accomplishments useful! Thanks for stopping by.
References: Land of Promise: A History of the United States. Berkin and Wood. Forseman Publishing (1987)