Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency

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What made Teddy Roosevelt different from other presidents and politicians?

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Theodore Roosevelt, often called "Teddy," served as president from 1901 to 1909. He increased presidential power, which had been relatively weak since Abraham Lincoln's assassination. His presidency was accidental, because he became chief executive after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. At forty-two years of age, he was...

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Theodore Roosevelt, often called "Teddy," served as president from 1901 to 1909. He increased presidential power, which had been relatively weak since Abraham Lincoln's assassination. His presidency was accidental, because he became chief executive after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. At forty-two years of age, he was the youngest to serve as president. He was brilliant; he excelled as a student at Harvard and wrote numerous books. As head of the Rough Riders in Cuba, he was a war hero. His numerous accomplishments easily surpass those of most other men who served as president.

His athletic prowess also set him apart from other presidents. As a youth, he suffered from asthma, but he overcame it and became muscular by the time he entered college. He was good at rowing and boxing. Roosevelt enjoyed the physically demanding work of a cowboy in the West. He promoted the growth of American football.

Roosevelt worked for the "little man" in America. Many presidents have uttered similar words, but Roosevelt actually meant it. He used the Sherman Antitrust Act to rein in corporate titans by breaking up their monopolies. J.P. Morgan and other magnates were enraged by Roosevelt's policies.

Roosevelt did more to protect the environment than any other president. He had a profound knowledge of North America's wildlife, and he helped protect it by setting aside federal lands for national parks. He also established the Forest Service in 1905.

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First of all, I would suggest that Theodore Roosevelt had a very strong force of personality and an ability to exploit that force of personality for political ends. When looking towards the subject of politics and policy, he did much to strengthen the Executive Branch. In this, he foreshadowed one of the dominant political trends that runs across much of the twentieth century: the growing centrality of the Presidency in US politics.

A political outsider who defied the power of the political machines, Roosevelt was originally given the vice presidential ticket in the hopes of pushing him into a political dead end. With the death of President McKinley, however, Roosevelt himself took the presidency.

Famous for his reputation as a "trust buster," Roosevelt prosecuted big business interests which he viewed as harmful to consumers and public well-being. Roosevelt's administration was not afraid to intervene in the economy, though interestingly, his successor, William Taft, would be far more active in prosecuting and breaking up big business interests than Roosevelt himself had been.

Among Roosevelt's most lasting and important legacies was his influence in shaping the Pure Food and Drug Act, a legacy that can still be felt in the present day. He also championed conservation. To conclude, his presidency represents quite possibly the most powerful and dramatic expression of the Progressive Era.

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One way that Teddy Roosevelt was different than other presidents and politicians is that he wasn’t afraid to stand up to his friends and to his political party. Teddy Roosevelt believed in a concept called the "Square Deal” in which middle-class people were to be treated fairly. Thus, when big business mergers threatened the American economy and nearly triggered a financial panic with the Northern Securities case, Roosevelt ordered the government to step in and break up the Northern Securities Company. In taking this action, he went against his friends and supporters, such as J.P. Morgan, and the Republican Party, a political party which generally supported the actions of big business.

Even when the Coal Strike of 1902 threatened the nation’s coal supply as winter approached, Roosevelt was not going to let the actions of greedy business owners potentially harm the safety of the American people.

While Roosevelt was president, many laws were passed to protect the average American. The Meat Inspection Act allowed for the federal inspection of meat packing plants. The Pure Food and Drug Act made it illegal to falsely label food and medicine. Conservation was a priority, as Roosevelt wanted to protect the environment and American national treasures for future generations.

When Teddy Roosevelt became disillusioned with the actions of his successor, President Taft, he wanted to have his party, the Republican Party, nominate him in 1912 instead of the sitting president. When the Republican Party chose President Taft, Roosevelt ran as the candidate for the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party. This action helped split the Republican vote, which helped the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, win the election in 1912. Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t afraid to stand up for his beliefs, even if those beliefs were contrary to those of his friends and his political party.

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I find Teddy Roosevelt to be one of our most interesting presidents, both personally and politically.  There is a standard straightforward answer to your question about Teddy Roosevelt being the first progressive to take office in the White House, following decades of Gilded Age party politics.  He wasn't afraid to take on unfair monopolies, or what he called "bad trusts" yet reward innovators ("good trusts").  He established national parks, reformed food processing and drug safety among other things.  All of these actions were breaks from past presidents.

There is also the answer to this question that talks about how Roosevelt was personally different from any other president, before or since.  Some things you may not have known about him:

* Teddy Roosevelt was a speed reader, often known to read 2 - 3 books and six newspapers before lunch.

* He was an amateur boxer, and by most accounts, a pretty good one

* Because he tried to box the heavyweight champ in the White House, TR lost his sight in his left eye, though this was kept carefully secret from the public.

*  He loved big meals, especially breakfast.  He was known to eat 12 eggs at a sitting.

*  He was the first President to travel outside of the US, to Panama.

*  When running for office in 1912, he was shot while giving a speech.  Partly protected by an eyeglasses case, but still injured, Roosevelt insisted on finishing his speech before receiving medical attention.

*  He resigned in 1898 as Secretary of the Navy so he could enlist in the military and fight in Cuba.

* He often conducted meetings with cabinet officials while on vigorous hikes around the White House, often exhausting and embarassing his colleagues.

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