Oct 29, 2013

Republicans and Roosevelt's "Follow me!"

Republicans have long been known for leading the way and being first in many political areas.  Republicans pushed for the 13th Amendment, freeing slaves in the United States.  Republicans pushed for voting rights for former slaves.  Republicans pushed for women’s rights, and they were a major driving force behind the Civil Rights Movements.  Countless pages could be written about the Republican Party that since the 1850’s has influenced our nation.  However, few Republicans have been as diverse, spirited, and larger-than-life than Theodore Roosevelt.   

Most Republicans and Democrats alike groom themselves from local office and work their way up to higher offices in a long career that, if the votes are right, can carry them in political life long after most other people have retired.  Roosevelt could be said to have done the same thing, if it wasn’t for the difference that made the man lead in so many other areas. 

Unlike other politicians, Roosevelt was diverse.  He was a cattle rancher, a deputy sheriff, a historian, an explorer, a police commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Governor of New York, a lawyer and a soldier.  From his days as a soldier he would become known not for yelling “Charge” to his troops, but instead for yelling “Follow me.”   Ironically, being a soldier did not come before political offices.  In fact, Roosevelt left his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to join the fight in the Spanish-American War.  Rather than hide behind the desk and send others to war, he advocated for it, and then took up the reigns and fought in it. 

As President, Roosevelt continued to fight for those less privileged than himself.  He pushed for better business relations and in doing so launched over forty antitrust cases against various businesses in the county.  He pushed for some of the first regulations dealing with handling food safety and drugs.  Roosevelt also fought against false advertising and misleading promotions.  He pushed for the National Forest Service and helped develop five national parks, including areas like the Grand Canyon.  He was one of the few people to see the importance of the Panama Canal and when France left the project, he quickly pushed for the United States to intervene and maintain control of the canal. 

While those accomplishments alone are impressive for Roosevelt’s life, it also has to be noted that he broke down other barriers never attempted before.  Roosevelt led the way as the first President to host an African-American for a White House dinner, and he was the first to appoint a Jewish member of a presidential cabinet. 

In the end, the larger than life President who lived by his own rules could best be summed up as an American Hero.  While both parties today search for that next great presidential candidate, it will always be hard to overcome the presidential candidate named Roosevelt.  In one of his final campaigns he carried himself with such force and drive that he gave a ninety-minute speech during a campaign stop after being shot in the chest.   Perhaps it’s time for the Republican Party to look back at this hero and once again leave the slogan “Charge” and embrace the slogan “Follow us”.