This is one of the very finest of autobiographies. Theodore Roosevelt writes with style and elan. He thinks profoundly, and he presents his own moral views with great vigor. Some of passages reflecting his experiences as a rancher in North Dakota - whose range extended into Montana - would have been exciting to read even if included in collections of the most popular western fiction ever written. Had such authors written them, the adventures he recalls in these passages would have enhanced the reputations of famed writers such as Zane Grey or Bret Harte, Louis L'Amour or even the great modern masters of historical Western lore such as Noel M. Loomis or Larry McMurtry. The days he recalls are those during which the West was as wild as it ever became.
His political experiences especially as a reformer intent on overcoming corruption wherever he found it also are detailed in these pages. They truly are historically important.
His experiences as Police Commissioner are revealing and because of them it is easy to understand why his picture hangs on the wall of the office of Police Commissioner (portrayed by Tom Selleck) in the currently popular TV series BLUE BLOODS.
The Theodore Roosevelt advocacy for women's suffrage and for thoroughly equal rights for women is wonderfully presented in his inclusion of his exchange of letters with a 45 year old woman who had given birth to nine children and reared them all only to find that her conscientious devotion to her family had put her at a disadvantage. It had limited her exposure to many exciting influences and made her believe she had become "boring" to her husband and even her own children. In her letters, perhaps in reaction to the fact that he was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions as a warrior who was constantly exposed to enemy fire while leading his Rough Riders (from the front rather than from the rear) in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, she addressed him as Colonel Roosevelt rather than President Roosevelt.
In this fine book, Roosevelt details his political experiences, including his reluctance to become McKinley's vice president. In this way he reveals the clarity with which he perceived how the opponents and rivals he had made as governor of New York were active in forcing the issue.
When McKinley was killed just six months into that four-year term, Roosevelt refused to make wholesale organizational changes , but actually advanced McKinley's policies.
As a naturalist and president he became one of the greatest and most able conservationist who ever lived. He had camped with John Muir and had lived a life compatible with the kind of conservation work that he undertook as president . He created the Forest Service. He allocated vast areas for national parks and set up systems of special protection for other primal locations. He set aside at least five vast wilderness areas as national parks and protected dozen more as wild-life refuges and safe areas. He launched preliminary efforts that later influenced BLM policies that preserved much that the nation and the culture otherwise might have lost.
As everyone knows, under his administration and by virtue of his efforts, the U.S. took over from the French and built the Panama Canal. He negotiated the peace that ended the Japanese-Russian war and for that effort was awarded the Nobel Prize.
There is no question that he is a talented writer and that he lived a life worth recording. Some passages in this fine book may seem too detailed and unnecessarily defensive, but for readers interested in the political history of one of the most generous, tough-minded, culturally useful and beneficial of our presidents it is or contains a moral vein that rivals in purity and worth all the legendary ores of the Comstock Lode. It is well worth the efforts to mine it.
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