Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency

Start Free Trial

Was Theodore Roosevelt a good or a bad president?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In examining the legacy of a former President, often people will determine the relative merit of that presidency based upon their own political party affiliations. But some presidents' achievements transcend the attitudes of this bipartisan tendency, and Theodore Roosevelt could be said to be one of them. Roosevelt took office in 1901, becoming in effect the first president of the 20th century to serve a full term. Despite becoming president as a result of the assassination of President William McKinley, for whom he served as vice president, and despite being, at age 42, the youngest president in history, Roosevelt quickly distinguished himself as a reformer and a passionate advocate for the common good. He passed several initiatives for regulation, including regulation of the railroads, and passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, all of which had lasting impact upon public health and safety.

The most enduring, and perhaps ultimately the most important, aspect of his legacy as president, however, was Roosevelt's determination to preserve natural resources. He enacted laws limiting the exploitation of minerals, water and other wilderness-based elements, and deemed that many forests and other areas should have national park status. He also established fifty-one wildlife refuges. In later years, when commerce and consumption drove many corporations to try and utilize the resources of protected federal lands, Roosevelt's visionary actions have served as a potent reminder that these resources belong to the American people and should be preserved for the enjoyment, education and well-being of future generations. President Bill Clinton's Lands Legacy initiative was the largest single act of legislation preserving natural spaces since Roosevelt's administration, and Clinton cited Roosevelt's work as an inspiration to continue to protect American wilderness and open space.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team