October 27, 2014 | Posted in General
Dear President Roosevelt,
Life in America in 1858 when you were born, was a far different world than the one I came into into 100 years later in 1958. James Buchanan was the President of the United States and history has ranked him as one of the worst to ever sit in the Oval Office. He was a dividing force between the North and South alienating the southern states leading to their secession as a prologue to the Civil War. His nickname was “dough face” alluding to his ability to be molded by other opinions, and perhaps the fact he was a life long bachelor might have led to his unpleasant demeanor. A young up and comer- Abe Lincoln -was warning the 31 million Americans that “A house divided against itself cannot stand” and the 4 million black slaves must be set free. I will spare the details that followed but suffice to say that what Mr. Lincoln declared the same year you were born unfortunately still rings true in 21st century America. For his commitment to the cause of freedom, he paid with his life. It must have been a sight to your young eyes as you watched the great man’s funeral procession from an upper window in your grandfather’s mansion in 1865.
I wonder then if you knew then that just 36 years later you would become our youngest president at 42. That you would be the first president to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, first to fly in an airplane, own a car, have a telephone, and go past the boundary of the United States. Don’t know if you have heard, but for the past six years, we have had an African-American president. Its a long way from another “first” when you invited African-American Booker T. Washington to dinner in 1901, setting off a feeding frenzy in the media and shouts for your removal from office.
Glad you told the elite to get stuffed and if they didn’t it wouldn’t be your head on a wall but one of theirs.
Surely Lincoln’s assassination was in your mind when that revolver was pointed at you in Milwaukee as you ran for a third term under the Progressive banner in 1914 and while the bullet was slowed down by your eyeglass case and the 50 page speech in your pocket, the fact that it still went five inches into your chest and you carried on in a blood soaked shirt for 90 minutes declaring “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose” astounds me. I know you lost that election and have read that the defeat caused more pain than the slug that stayed in your chest the rest of your life. But I just wanted to thank you for all that you contributed to the growth and change of our nation, from creating the national park system to taking on big business, forcing them to take responsibility for their actions towards workers and for being “the trust buster” breaking up the corporate monopolies that were making a select few wealthy and pushing for “ a square deal” for every man. It his perhaps your concern for the environment that I admire most of all, your ability to see further than dollars and cents as when you blocked a bill in 1908 by executive order that was being pushed into congress by lobbyists that wanted permission to strip mine the Grand Canyon. You reminded countless generations to follow that we should “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it, the ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it. What you can do is leave it for your children and for all that come after you, as the one great sight that every American…should see.” Thank you for the bird sanctuaries, monuments and the 42 million acres of wilderness you set aside with the knowing that man, left to his own devices and not protected from his own greed would develop, sell and decimate as much ground as he could get his hands on.
Thank you for not allowing the needs of many fall prey to the sins of a few… for profit.
I know that your last great adventure, mapping out the “River of Doubt” in 1913, deep in the then unknown Amazon was not only your most arduous expedition and nearly cost you your life, but it was also your last chance to “be a boy” one more time. The fact you had your own son Kermit by your side must have made it even more exhilarating. By the way Mr. President, for most people the word “Amazon” is now defined as an online virtual storefront that people buy nearly everything imaginable on. I bet you would have loved the access to books, having authored more than 35 yourself, but not so much for the rest of the offerings that range from baby clothes to car parts to sex toys. On a side note, the Amazon you helped to map out has been burned, chopped and decimated to raise cattle to make hamburgers.
But I digress.
This morning as I wonder what you would think of our country, now with 340 million of us banging around (compared to the 90 million when you left office in 1909) to the technological advances that have us “texting” each other, connecting with people from around the world, often times without the aid of wires, the incredible medical advances and the ability we have to bend the environment to our will, unfortunately at times with little regard for future generations as we are still a species addicted to the fossil fuels that once seemed infinite…but are not. I wonder how you would handle American companies that poured their concrete foundations in our land, only to shelter their assets overseas as not to pay their fair share of taxes. I wonder how you would deal with these lesser life forms that so often crop up in the political realm, shrouding themselves in some false sense of patriotism only to end up sending pictures of themselves without clothes on or upon further inspection exaggerating their military records or duty, something I cannot imagine you would stand for after leading the “Rough Riders” into battle. I wonder what you would say about climate change, the internet, cable television, TV evangelists, rampant drug abuse, school shootings, the NRA (being a lifetime member yourself) the inept congress, “Big Oil” the minimum wage, gay marriage, the GOP (that stuffed you in the VP slot to keep you out of the way only to have that move backfire when McKinley was assassinated) the democrats that can’t get their act together and how “progressive” has somehow turned into a bad idea.
Mr. President, there have been just a few real leaders in the White House-a handful really- since you passed away on that frostbitten night in January of 1919, 95 years ago. Your cousin FDR held us together reminding us that “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Truman dropped the bomb, Ike held the fort, JFK took a bullet and Reagan got a wall torn down. The rest held office and held court, most of them had their wishbones where their backbones should have been.
In closing I just wanted to thank you for one thing more than anything I have previously listed in this letter. When I was a boy of about 10, I read a story about your life, how much you loved nature and overcame illness, built your body and mind and spirit on the hard times and formed a foundation, a doctrine of “living the strenuous life” that advocated knowing yourself, trusting yourself and by doing so would encourage not more followers, but actually create more leaders. That one story in the “Child Craft” series would turn out to be a guidepost for me, a way of seeing wonder in the world and celebrating it, looking for ways I can use my time on the planet to leave it better than I found it and to affirm “Bully” as a positive, not a negative connotation.
I will never sit in the Oval Office and have the power you did, but your life has inspired me in my own way to live bigger than I could have ever imagined…how did you say it? “
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
Happy 156th birthday Mr. President…and thank you sir.