What major reforms/projects did Teddy Roosevelt undertake while in office? Name and describe at least three of his policy successes.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one of Roosevelt's most demonstrative success for "the whole of the people" was the passage of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.  Roosevelt was shocked at the revelations of the meat packing industry illuminated in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.  While Roosevelt was dismissive towards Sinclair's political leanings, the President understood that "radical action must be taken to do away with the efforts of arrogant and selfish greed on the part of the capitalist."  This came in the form of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906, in which government oversight over food preparation became law.  

The legislation represents a policy success on two levels. It showed legislative action towards curbing the "arrogant and selfish greed" of the capitalist in terms of the preparation of food products.  The legislation was successful because it represented a clear statement that economic profit would not come at the cost of "the whole of the people."  At the same time, President Roosevelt's legislation was successful because it substantiated Roosevelt's belief that "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us," a significant theme in his administration's themes.

Another success would be the strength he demonstrated towards the business community. While it might have been fundamentally impossible to legislate pure fairness in the capitalist outreach of America, the reality was that Roosevelt did make significant strides to demonstrate that government did not have to be in collusion with industry.  Breaking up the Standard Oil monopoly was one significant project.  Roosevelt understood that the idea of "bad trusts" could be seen in endeavors such as Standard Oil.  In engineering the breakup of Standard Oil, Roosevelt used the power of the government to limit the power of "big business:"

...beyond question... the dominant position of the Standard Oil Co. in the refining industry was due to unfair practices—to abuse of the control of pipe-lines, to railroad discriminations, and to unfair methods of competition in the sale of the refined petroleum products.

From a symbolic standpoint, the breakup of Standard Oil represented how Roosevelt believed that his function was the "broaden the use of executive power."  In this regard, Roosevelt's actions against Standard Oil would have to be seen as a success because it underscored one of his most basic philosophical tenets.

In terms of historical recollection, President Roosevelt would have to be successful in being able to carve out the idea of a "square deal."  President Roosevelt was distinctive in his ability to capture the public imagination as a force of transformation, while others were depicting as lacking the moral and ethical will to advocate such change:  "My action on labor should always be considered in connection with my action as regards capital, and both are reducible to my favorite formula – a square deal for every man."  President Roosevelt established this tone early in his administration.  He never deviated from it.  The cultivation of the "square deal" project was evident throughout his administration.  He was able to invoke it when he negotiated better compensation packages for workers and was able to establish it when he used "the bully pulpit" of his office against industry.  The "square deal" could be seen as a successful project because President Roosevelt was conscious of being so closely associated with it.