— Theodore Roosevelt
(also known as "Teddy" or "T.R."), the president from 1901 to 1909
, who followed William McKinley
and was followed by William Howard Taft
, is known for having been in the cavalry, leading the Rough Riders' charge on San Juan Hill, commissioning the Panama Canal, creating the US National Park System, and saying "speak softly, but carry a big stick
" (the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt
is called "the big stick" by its crew). Before he became the 26th President of the United States, he was a governor, historian, adventurer, police chief, cavalryman, cowboy, explorer, hunter, naturalist, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, author of 35 books, conservationist, etc.
He was a larger-than-life figure with a bombastic reputation as a total Badass
He was a Real Life
example of Reassignment Backfire
; the Republican Party (specifically, the corrupt political machines that grafted votes from immigrants) became sick of his grandstanding as a Governor of New York and appointed him Vice President, where it was assumed that he'd be powerless
. Less than a year later, President McKinley was assassinatednote
, making Teddy President, and stirring several comments along the lines of "That damn cowboy is gonna be the president?!" Teddy went on to be elected in his own right in 1904 (the first "Accidental President" to do so), won the Nobel Peace Prize (while still in office) for brokering a peace deal between the warring Japanese and Russian Empires (becoming the first US President to win the award), sent a US fleet on a nonviolent global cruise (which was more of a global series of parties really) to show the naval strength of the US, then stepped aside at the end of his second term so that William Howard Taft could be elected President.
Over the next four years, however, Roosevelt grew to dislike Taft and his governing (Taft drifted towards the conservative wing of the Republicans, while Teddy was of the liberal, Progressive wing), and decided to challenge him for the Republican nomination. When that didn't work, Roosevelt actually formed his own political party
(the Progressive Party, also known by the more badass name of the Bull Moose Party) so that he could run against Taft in the 1912 election. This wound up splitting the vote and allowing Woodrow Wilson to win the election (thus showing why third parties don't last long on the national stage), but Teddy did end up getting more votes than Taft — the second and last time (not counting the spectacularly messed-up election of 1860
) that a third-party candidate placed second or higher in a US Presidential election. (Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1864 on the Union Party ticket, although that is also kinda messed up.note
Ironically enough, the other president to have that last name was a Democrat
, whereas Teddy was a Republican (they were fifth-cousins; Franklin's wife Eleanor was actually TR's niece). Franklin, in fact, went with the Democratic Party in order to avoid being drowned out by his distant cousin's reputation in the Republicans (well, that, and the fact that TR's Oyster Bay branch of the family had long been Republicans, while FDR's Hyde Park branch had long been Democrats). Despite being from different parties, both of them were generally liberal in their policies - remember, FDR was elected President after the liberal side of the political spectrum switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.
Teddy was also a real-life example of a Gentleman Adventurer
and Egomaniac Hunter
. He was a big conservationist, eager to make sure he'd always have something to hunt. The "teddy bear
" is named after him, because he refused to shoot a black bear cub just for the sake of it. The bear was put down — the rest of his family had been already shot. Foreign ambassadors dreaded meeting him, as it usually meant that they would have to accompany him on his strenuous daily jog, with him making fun of them when they inevitably ran short of breath and started lagging behind. Edith Roosevelt, Teddy's second wife, was a real-life example of a Victorious Childhood Friend
— she had been a childhood playmate of his.
He was also a famed adventurer, famously taking a big game hunt to Africa shortly after leaving the White House and later exploring an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River. Words alone can not describe the impressiveness of this later feat. This is chronicled in the book River of Doubt
. After he was through with it, it had to be renamed the River of UNQUESTIONABLE CERTAINTY!
Notable for being the youngest US President at 42 years old and the only President born in New York City. (He is not
, however, the youngest US President to be elected
. That's John F. Kennedy
, who was 43. Teddy was elected at 46.)
In case it wasn't clear by now, he was made of pure, condensed Badass
, and is often portrayed as even more so than he already was
. Within his own lifetime
, historian Henry Adams explicitly compared him to God
. In fiction, he is frequently portrayed as a Large Ham
, in keeping with his boisterous
nature and public persona. At her wedding, his daughter Alice stated that "My father wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening." But she was giving as good as she got; Alice was a notorious handful: rambunctious, mischievous, and known to the press as "Princess Alice" due to her beauty and outgoing nature. Her father had once snarked, "I can either run the country, or attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both." She would go on to become a Washington socialite/lobbyist whose razor wit, political savvy, and connections could build up or destroy any politician she set her sights on. Teddy also had a son whom he named Kermit (THAT SHOWED HIM
) who joined him on some of his expeditions. Teddy's grandson, Kermit Jr., would also have adventures, but as he was a CIA
officer these tended to be rather more Cloak & Dagger
affairs that involved, among other things, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran and installing the Shah as an absolute monarch
. Hey, it was
the Cold War
Film of President Roosevelt can be found here
as he was the first President to have most of his professional career documented on film, from the Rough Riders to his death. He is also one of the first Presidents of whom we have voice recordings
; his accent and somewhat high-pitched voice take some people off-guard.
Teddy was the first President to visit another country while in office - he took a trip to Panama in 1906 to see how the completion of the Panama Canal was coming along.
Compare Andrew Jackson
It Takes More Than Examples To Stop a Bull Moose!
- Animal Motifs: The Bull Moose.
- Authority Equals Ass Kicking: Sort of, although he kicked ass for some time before he had any authority.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: A huge part of the reason his political career in New York was able to progress so far despite the fact that the political bosses hated him, was due to the fact that the public admired TR's heroic willingness and ability to face down the corrupt interests in the NY political machine.
- Badass: Doesn't even begin to describe him.
- Ambadassador: He won the Nobel Peace Prize for overseeing negotiations between Russia and Japan to help end the Russo-Japanese War.
- He also mediated between coal miners and the owners of the mines during the Coal Strike of 1902 which had caused an energy crisis to rival the OPEC embargo of the 1970's.
- Badass Baritone: Subverted, see Vocal Dissonance below.
- Badass Boast: "I took Panama."
- Badass Family: Teddy's sons went off to perform their own badass exploits.
- His son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr, landed on Utah Beach during the first wave of the Normandy Invasion... when he was 56, and suffering from heart disease and arthritis. His actions on Utah Beach lead to him being posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, after dying of a heart attack a month later.
- Theodore, Jr.'s brother Kermit was no slouch himself, joining Pa in the Amazon and serving in both World Wars (even to the point of joining the British Army before the US entered the war). Unfortunately, he had a tendency to get depressed and hit the bottle when in situations less exciting than war or hunting; the cirrhosis combined with a bout of malaria to lead to his discharge from the British Army. After this led him to yet another bout of drinking, his wife enlisted Cousin Franklin's help, sending the FBI to find him, give him a commission in the Army, and take him to command a fort in Alaska. He there committed suicide.
- Kermit's son, Kermit, Jr., is notable as one of the CIA's early case officers, specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He is most notable for directing Operation Ajax, which despite being one of the darker spots in American history was probably one of the ballsier and more ingenious plans ever put into action.
- Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Brainy Brunette and Deadpan Snarker extraordinaire, she rebelled against the restrictions placed on women at the time, and remained on the political scene until the Nixon era. When Roosevelt himself admits he can't handle you, you know you've got someone hardcore on your hands.
- Badass In Charge
- Badass Moustache
- Colonel Badass: He led the Rough Riders as a colonel during the Spanish-American War.
- When TR went off on his globe-trotting adventures following his stay in the White House, he preferred to be called "Colonel Roosevelt" rather than "Mr. President."
- Handicapped Badass: He was blind in one eye as a result of a boxing match. But did that ever stop him? The injury prompted him to take up a safer hobby: judo.
- Memetic Badass: It is said that the day he and Chuck Norris clash, the universe will end.
- Heartbroken Badass: Roosevelt suffered through some truly heartbreaking personal tragedies in his life. See the Despair Event Horizon and Heroic BSOD entries for more details.
- Becoming the Mask: A rare positive example. Born a sickly Upper-Class Twit, Roosevelt first cultivated the image of a rugged man-of-action and then proceeded to actually remake himself into one.
- Berserk Button: His failed run for Mayor of New York City in 1886. It only has one sentence in his autobiography, and once caused him to slam his fists on a table when a listener to one of his bear hunting stories joked "[That bear] must have been as badly used up as if he had just run for Mayor of New York."
- In one sense, the death of his first wife Alice. While there's no record of him going berserk upon a mention of her, he went well out of his way to destroy almost all record of her in his house, so that he'd never have to hear a mention of her.
- During his time as Governor of New York, two reporters asked him if he was considering running for President. Roosevelt immediately leapt from his desk and angrily scolded the two for bringing up the subject. In truth, he actually was considering running, but currently he wanted the Presidency out of his mind so he could concentrate on his current job.
- Big Applesauce: Teddy Roosevelt was born and raised in New York City, and had the Brooklyn Rage to prove it. He later became a crusading NYPD Commissioner, and famously took on corruption, even going to the lengths of personally patrolling the streets to ensure that his officers were doing their job of protecting the people. His crusade against corruption infuriated and confounded the local political bosses. He also instituted mandatory requirements for cops to stay in physical shape. He also personally walked through the slums of the city alongside muckraking journalist Jacob Riis. Riis later wrote in his autobiography:
"When Roosevelt read [my] book, he came....No one ever helped as he did. For two years we were brothers in (New York City's crime-ridden) Mulberry Street. When he left I had seen its golden age.... There is very little ease where Theodore Roosevelt leads
, as we all of us found out. The lawbreaker found it out who predicted scornfully that he would "knuckle down to politics the way they all did," and lived to respect him, though he swore at him, as the one of them all who was stronger than pull
....that was what made the age golden, that for the first time a moral purpose came into the street. In the light of it everything was transformed.''
- In 1888, New York City was hit by a massive blizzard. Roosevelt left his hotel and walked three miles through the snow to make an appointment. When the other person didn't show up, he left a note saying, "I presume the blizzard kept you at home," and walked back.
- Bigfoot: In one of his books, he is said to have encountered one. And no, he didn't hit it with a stick.
- Bigger Stick: Pseudo-Trope Namer.
- Blood Knight: He had elements of this. He loved boxing and hunting and said that he didn't start any wars when he was president because he couldn't stand the thought of being stuck in the White House while American soldiers fought on the front lines. See Boisterous Bruiser and Colonel Kilgore below.
- Boisterous Bruiser
- Brooklyn Rage: Probably the biggest Badass ever to come out of New York City, as this page can attest.
- Possibly a subversion as well, as he went out West in order to learn most of that badassery. Most of the badass events are also more wildernessy hunter explorer type things.
- But Now I Must Go: At the height of his popularity and for no particular reason Roosevelt declined to run for re-election in 1908. He later regretted this, and ran and lost on a third party ticket in 1912. He probably would have been elected in 1920 if he had lived.
- Catch Phrase: And what a bully Catch Phrase it was!
- Carry a Big Stick: Trope Namer
- Colonel Kilgore: He refered to the Battle of San Juan Hill as "the greatest day of my life" and even begged Woodrow Wilson to allow him to form and lead a volunteer force into WWI.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: He was despised by the political bosses in New York—including those within his own party—because he insisted on rebelling against their corruption, even when they were the leaders of his own party. The bosses attempted to neutralize his influence by kicking him upstairs to the often-powerless position of Vice President. Then President McKinley died. And now, Teddy became the Badass In Charge of the whole country. Needless to say, the political bosses were pissed.
- Crazy Awesome
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: For starters: Everything he ever did, ever. Well, if you want specifics...
TR: I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!
- Dare to Be Badass: His speech "Citizenship in a Republic" contains the famous "Man In The Arena" quote:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
- Despair Event Horizon: Passed it when his favorite and youngest son, Quentin, was killed in World War I. His health began to plummet immediately as the sheer force of will that almost literally held his body together began to fail.
- Determinator: He started life as a sickly home-schooled child, but managed to become the single most manly creature in existence through sheer force of will.
- Egomaniac Hunter: Actually a subversion; he loved to hunt, but he was also a staunch conservationist who probably did more to protect nature and wildlife than anyone else. More preserved nature = more stuff to kill later. In other words, he may have enjoyed hunting, but he wanted to do so sustainably.
- Embarrassing Nickname: He really didn't like being called "Teddy". However, it wasn't because he hated it— it was reportedly the pet name his first wife, Alice, gave to him. Roosevelt never really got over her Death by Childbirth, so he shuddered at the thought of being called "Teddy". He preferred being called "TR".
- Formally-Named Pet: His kids had hamsters named Dr. Johnson, Bishop Doane and Father O'Grady.
- Genius Bruiser: He was a black belt in jujitsu and had a history as a champion boxer. He was also extremely intelligent. He was a Harvard graduate, read in French, German, Italian, and English, made an effort to read a book every day before breakfast, was usually able to get two or three more in by the time he went to bed, and still found time to kick copious amounts of ass. Listing his intellectual achievements would take far too long, just go to The Other Wiki and look at the "education" and "writer" sections.
- Gentleman Adventurer
- Great White Hunter
- Heroic BSOD: Similar to the Despair Event Horizon above, TR was staggered for about a week by the death of his first wife, Alice. (His mother died on the same day, which surely didn't help.) He pulled himself through by excising her memory from his life as thoroughly as possible. This worked, although their daughter (also named Alice) came to resent it in later years. Her father never spoke to her about her mother and asked her aunt to raise her prior to his remarriage. TR usually called Alice "Sister" rather than her given name — to the point where her nieces and nephews, TR's grandchildren from his second marriage, called her "Aunt Sister."
- In his diary, for the entry on the day his mother and wife died, TR drew a large X and then scrawled "The light has gone out of my life."
- Heterosexual Life Partner: William Howard Taft, his absolute best friend whom he even picked out as his successor for the presidency. Taft's presidency drove them apart because of Taft's far more conservative beliefs and they wound up competing against each other in the elction of 1913, but after they both lost to Woodrow Wilson they cooled off and became great friends again soon after.
- Ill Boy: Started off his life as this, suffering from severe asthma and a whole host of other ailments. He claimed to have overcome it by sheer force of will, and it seems he was right.
- Ivy League: TR was a Harvard graduate.
- And he saved the existence of football! The Ivy League (specifically Harvard) was looking to ban the sport due to all of the injuries and fatalities from game, until Roosevelt mediated a set of rules between Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to make the game safer.
- Kicked Upstairs: Why he became Vice-President. He kicked right back.
- Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand: "I have come over to see when you want to begin the killing."
- Klingon Promotion: Well, not exactly, but he did ascend to the highest office in the land by proving himself way less killable than his predecessor.
- Large Ham
- The Lost Lenore: His first wife Alice Hathaway Lee.
- Made of Iron: More like Adamantium given the fact he survived a bullet wound to the chest, malaria, and asthma.
- Mega Corp. Buster: He built up a reputation as a trustbuster when he took on the trusts (which were the Mega Corps of their day) and won.
- Memetic Badass: Especially on Cracked.com, AlternateHistory.com and in John Hodgman's More Information Than You Require. Think Super Prototype of Chuck Norris.
- Must Have Caffeine: The man loved his coffee and would drink at least a gallon on a slow day. Heck, Maxwell House Coffee's slogan, "Good to the last drop", came from a comment Theodore made about the brand, making him a Trope Namer of sorts.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: A firm believer in the if right to stay right; if wrong to be set right kind, though some philosophers also attribute his thoughts on it to "Cosmopolitan Patriotism." In a speech made in 1910, he stressed how, while refuting naive cosmopolitanism, being a citizen of the world means both loving one's country and living in peace with others.
- My Real Daddy: In recent years, Time Magazine essentially made an argument about Teddy being this trope to the United States of America. True, the nation had already been founded in 1776, but the Time article argues that it was Teddy who built the groundwork for America becoming a world power.
- Nature Lover: Roosevelt established an enormous number of national parks and wildlife preserves, far more than any prior president. During his eight years, the total acres of protected land in the US increased from 42 million acres to 172 million. Whenever Americans think of environmental Presidents, Teddy is almost always the one who first comes to mind.
- New York City Cops: He was the president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners from 1895-1897. During his time he reformed the department by sweeping up corruption, creating a bicycle squad, standardizing the use of firearms, setting up officer fitness standards, and would personally walk the streets making sure police officers were on duty.
- Nice to the Waiter: He was very well liked by all the White House staff and he made it an effort to find time to spend time with them after the end of his term.
- Only a Flesh Wound: See Crowning Moment Of Awesome above for the assassination attempt in 1912.
- Our Presidents Are Different: 100% President Action, although Mark Twain thought he was a President Lunatic.
- Peace Through Superior Firepower: The phrase, "Tony Stark take notes." summarizes Roosevelt's method and effectiveness at this.
- Pocket Protector: See the first entry in Crowning Moment of Awesome above.
- Rated M for Manly / Testosterone Poisoning: See the page quote. Vice President Thomas Marshall gave the most eloquent tribute, after Roosevelt died in 1919:
Marshall: Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight.
- Reassignment Backfire: Mark Hanna called it ahead of time, (the only one to do so!) when Roosevelt became Vice President that this might happen. Later, he was attributed as saying, "I don't believe it - the Goddamn cowboy's President!" (He was, though, always against the New York Republicans making TR vice-president for that very reason.)
- Renaissance Man: It's easier to list what accomplishments Teddy Roosevelt was NOT capable of. And anything he wasn't capable of, well, he could have mercilessly beaten someone else into doing it. Pretty much his policy, actually.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Manly. William Howard Taft is the sensitive one.
- Spanish-American War: He was a major leader during the conflict.
- To the point that, despite only being a Lieutenant Colonel at the time, a number of Spanish Newspapers were under the impression that he was commanding the entire American army.
- Specs of Awesome: Roosevelt took the awesome Up to Eleven in his lifetime. See above what happened to the guy that called him "Four-Eyes".
- Stout Strength
- Sweet Tooth: He drank his cups of coffee with seven lumps of sugar in them and had a passion for peaches and cream, devouring a soup-bowl-sized serving every morning when peaches were in season.
- Trope Namer: The color "Alice blue" is named for the color of a dress worn by his daughter. Also, he's the reason we call them Teddy Bears.
- ‹bermensch: His eyeglasses and moustache are even vaguely Nietzscheian.
- Unexpected Successor: Really, his enemies should have seen it coming, considering that there had been previous Vice Presidents that were absolutely the LAST people their respective parties wanted in the Oval Office but got there anyway simply because the President croaked—namely Andrew Johnson and John Tyler, both of whom were still within living memory.
- Values Dissonance: Engineered the overthrow of Colombia's government purely because it was economically advantageous to the US, and didn't bother trying to pretend otherwise. A President that openly tried this today would very likely face impeachment.
- You go ahead and tell TR that he's being impeached. Go on. I dare you.
- To be fair though, TR viewed his support of Panamanian revolutionaries against the Colombian government as being in the long-term best interests of all mankind. His belief was that by supporting the creation of Panama and building the Panama Canal there (the Panamanian revolutionaries were sympathetic to the idea of building the Canal through the isthmus, unlike the Colombian government), he would essentially be facilitating the creation of one of history's greatest infrastructure projects, one that could allow the whole world to trade more freely and thus improve the global economy and somewhat mitigate the effects of starvation and poverty, in his view. One may agree or disagree with this view, but at the very least, TR viewed it as an I Did What I Had to Do moment, and in later years still repeatedly declared his belief that the construction of the Panama Canal as his greatest accomplishment. This does count as Values Dissonance, and historians debate the merits of this idea to this day.
- Congress had to approve Roosevelt's actions in the first place. On top of that, Roosevelt invoked Monroe's Doctrine, (which Congress had approved nearly a century earlier) in order to justify his actions. So Congress could impeach Roosevelt, but it would just lose through a complicated set of politics that would end with Congress losing more power to the Supreme Court and the Executive Branch.
- Vocal Dissonance: Sort of. While you'd expect someone as Badass as TR to have a deep, booming voice, the single existing audio recording of him (which is of a brief speech he gave to a group of high-school football players) reveals that his voice was actually somewhat high-pitched and rather posh. A short sample for your enlightenment is available here. The dissonance is even more surprising because actors portraying him often use a deep, resonant, bombastic voice. This dissonance may be caused by the fact that he grew up with respiratory disease and so he used a high voice which carries better when speaking outdoors, and that he WAS born to an aristocratic family.
- White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Certainly the most Badass example.
- When humorist Finley Peter Dunne called Theodore a WASP, Roosevelt insisted that he was Dutch. This also means that he could kick ass in a pair of wooden shoes.
- The Wild West: Roosevelt moved to the Badlands in the Dakotas and became a rancher and cowboy for many years. He learned how to ride western-style, rope, and hunt. He wrote three books about aspects of life in the Old West based on his experiences. He also became a deputy and helped capture a dangerous gang of bandits who captured his riverboat. After hunting them down, TR sent his boat back home and escorted the bandits to their trial in nearby Dickinson, North Dakota. TR guarded them for forty hours without sleep and reading Tolstoy to keep himself awake. When he ran out of his own books, he read a dime store western that one of the thieves was carrying. That's right, he not only hunted down and captured the thieves, he escorted them to the courthouse, read Tolstoy along the way, and even commandeered one of their dime novels to keep himself from getting bored. Yeah, he pretty much humiliated those bandits.
- The Woobie: If you read what he had to go through, you will feel bad for him. In any given book about him, there isn't a chapter where something horrible doesn't happen to him or reveals some tragic aspect or shame. Life really had it in for the guy, but he not only prevailed in spite of it, he became mighty. Not that you would know his trouble from his autobiography. In combination with the Edmund Morris Trilogy, you get the impression that the guy was an emotional trainwreck who suppressed every single traumatic event in order to stay, if not sane, then at least functional.
Theodore Roosevelt in Fiction