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Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

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theodore roosevelt

A teddy bear is our most favorite toy. Teddy symbolizes mushy romance and memories of those trips to Archies (or Satyam for those staying in Mumbai). But would you like to know the person whom after it is named. Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States of America. His face is on Mount Rushmore along with Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Teddy bears are fondly named after him based on a hunting trip incident in 1902. Till date he is regarded as one of the top five most influential president of all times. Lets see what makes him so endearing and popular.

Early life and youth

Theodore was born with debilitating asthma and suffered from poor health. He used to wake up at night with recurring dreams and worried parents. Doctors had no cure for his health condition. However he was energetic and inquisitive. At the age of seven, he found a dead seal at the local market. Along with his cousins, he formed the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”. At the age of nine he wrote a paper titled “The Natural History of Insects”.

He used to hike with his father. During his trips to the Alps in 1869, he realized that if he exerted enough, this asthma effects could be minimized. So began exercising in a big way. After being bullied by two older boys, he took to boxing training.

Theodore did not go to school, but studied at home. This led to some subjects being difficult to learn like maths. In college he continued to excel in studies but also kept his interests in sports like rowing and boxing. He was also member of many clubs and editor of the college magazine.

He inherited a fortune from his father, which could have enabled him to lead a comfortable life, if he chose. At this point he decided to change his earlier plan to pursue law at Columbia Law School. While pursuing law he wrote a book on War of 1812 based on US Navy records. This book talked about navy strategy. Till date it remains a standard study of naval warfare.

The death of his first wife immediately after child birth, marked a big X in his diary page and he wrote, “The light has gone out of my life”. After the death of his wife he went in a period of grief, but soon enough plunged himself into work as a politician for the city of New York.

Political Career and Adult life

Theodore began his political career with a crusade against corruption. He was instrumental in writing a lot of legislation and laws. He used his knowledge of law and his ever growing drive to clean up the system. As a career politician he spend most of his time in New York of which he later became Governor and later Vice President and President.

He took a long break from politics to become a rancher. He did farming, hunting and herding. He wrote and published three books on hunting and ranch life. He influenced fellow ranchers on the dangers of overgrazing and conservation of game animals. After marrying the second time, he was eventually was compelled to rejoin politics upon his return to New York. On his election as Governor of New York, he again jumped in public glare by police reforms. Later on the beginning of his national level career, he was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of Navy.

Army life and Rough Riders

In 1898, as the Assistant Secretary, United States went to war with Spain. He resigned his post to join the war. Though persuaded by many including his family, he was determined to see action. Along with an Army Colonel, he formed the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Training with them, he sharpened his soldering skills. He took part in many skirmishes and was promoted to the rank of Colonel. Rough Riders became famous for the Battle of Kettle Hill which was a daring attack in broad daylight under virtually no cover. He later wrote that the only way it could have been done was to lead from the front. He was the only rider on horseback while the rest of his infantry climbed in foot. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for this battle but only posthumously. After the war he preferred to be called Colonel Theodore though “Teddy” remained much popular, though he hated it. He then went on to become the Governor of New York and later the Vice President.

President Bill Clinton awarded him the Medal Of Honor in 2001. He is the only President who has received this military honor. US Navy has named two ships after him. USS Theodore Roosevelt an aircraft carrier and a submarine.

theodore roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt as Army Colonel
By B.J. Falk (1853-1925) – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID cph.3b14493.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain,

As the President of United States

Theodore Roosevelt became President in the most unusual circumstances which called for some drastic actions. He began by cementing his position as the undisputed leader of his party. Then he went on with his idea of nation building. He started with prosecuting the rogue big businesses who were controlling the rail roads and oil and refinery business. He went on changing each and every thing which he disliked. In 1902 when the coal miners went on strike, he threatened them with federal action and then reached an agreement with them. On discovery of corruption in Land Office and Post Office department, he came down heavily on the corrupt and went the fullest extent to prosecute them. He worked on rail roads, food, drugs and almost all things that touched people in everyday life. His foreign policy was firm but understanding. He maintained close ties with the media. He even survived an assassination attempt, but completed his speech even after he was shot and then received medical attention.

As a conservationist

Theodore was most proud for his work as a conservationist. He created laws for National Parks and Forest Service established national reserves, forests, bird and game preserves. He used his good offices to protect forest land and the environment. Post presidency he traveled to Africa for the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition. The expedition brought back lots of animal specimen for museums. He also wrote a detailed book sharing his experiences. Later he went for another expedition in South America. It was during this expedition that he suffered injury and weakened his health. He received the Nobel Peace prize in 1910. When World War I broke out in 1914, the government requested him to raise the Rough Riders again. But ill health kept him in a bad health condition and he died in 1919.

The famous “Teddy Bear” incident

During a hunting trip, his assistants cornered an American Black Bear and tied it to a tree. They then asked him to shoot it, which he refused as being unsportsmanlike. This story was published in the Washington Post as a cartoon. A young entrepreneur saw the cartoon and designed a tiny soft bear cub and put a sign “Teddy’s Bear” The toys were an immediate success, and they remain till date.


Colonel Theodore was an author, conservationist, explorer, historian, naturalist, police commissioner, politician, soldier and sportsman. He has been featured in literature works, movies and themes. His political speeches and impact which he left on public life is visible even today.

Teddy bear is not just a symbol of cuddly friendship. It is a story of strength and how to overcome adversity and excel in whatever you aim to do.

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