The glory of Theodore Roosevelt is that he personified the American Nation. From his earliest youth he was an American nationalist. In this faith he lived; in this faith he died; and the deeds he wrought and the words he spoke for the advancement of that faith are the unshakable foundations of his undying fame. More than any other man of his period, his character and his life typified the character and the life of the American people as a whole.
Roosevelt was a many-sided man and every side was like an electric battery. Such versatility, such vitality, such thoroughness, such copiousness, have rarely been united in one man. He was not only a full man, he was also a ready man and an exact man. He could bring all his vast resources of power and knowledge to bear upon a given subject instantly.
I met in him a man of such extraordinary power that to find a second at the same time on this globe would have been an impossibility; a man whom to associate with was a liberal education, and who could be in every way likened to radium, for warmth, force and light emanated from him and no spending of it could ever diminish his store. A man of immense interests, there was nothing in which he did not feel that there was something worthy of study; people of today, people of yesterday, animals, minerals, stones, stars, the past, the future—everything was of interest for him. He studied each thing, knew something about every subject.
His power to hold his own was the fruit of his omnivorous reading and almost uncanny memory. Whether the subject of the moment was political economy, the Greek drama, tropical fauna or flora, the Irish sagas, protective coloration in nature, metaphysics, the technique of football, or post-futurist painting, he was equally at home with the experts. . . . To appraise him coolly and impartially is a difficult task for those who loved him, but I have come definitely to the conclusion that of all the public men that I have known, on both sides of the Atlantic (and there are few that I have not known in the past thirty years), he stands out the greatest, and as the most potent influence for good upon the life of his generation. That influence extended far beyond the borders of his own country.
The more closely we scrutinize Theodore Roosevelt's life and the more carefully we consider his many ventures in many totally different fields of human activity, the less likely we are to challenge the assertion that his was the most interesting career ever vouchsafed to any American. . . His style was tinglingly alive; it was masculine and vascular; and it was always the style of a gentleman and a scholar. He could puncture with a rapier and he could smash with a sledgehammer; and if he used the latter more often than the former it was because of his consuming hatred of things “unmanly, ignominious, infamous.” There was no mistaking the full intent of his words. He knew what he meant to say, and he knew how to say it with simple sincerity and with vigorous vivacity. His straightforwardness prevented his ever employing phrases that faced both ways.
He did not originate great new truths, but he drove old fundamental truths into the minds and the hearts of his people so that they stuck and dominated. Old truths he insisted upon, enlarged upon, repeated over and over in many ways with quaint and interesting and attractive forms of expression, never straining for novelty or originality, but always driving, driving home the deep fundamental truths of public life, of a great self-governing democracy, the eternal truths upon which justice and liberty must depend among men. Savonarola originated no truths, nor Luther, nor Wesley, nor any of these flaming swords that cut into the consciousness of mankind with the old truths, that had been overlooked by indifference and error, wrong-heartedness and wrong-headedness. Review the roster of the few great men of history, our own history, the history of the world; and when you have finished the review, you will find that Theodore Roosevelt was the greatest teacher of the essentials of popular self-government the world has ever known. . . .The future of our country will depend upon having men, real men of sincerity and truth, of unshakable conviction, of power, of personality, with the spirit of Justice and the fighting spirit through all the generations; and the mightiest service that can be seen today to accomplish that for our country is to make it impossible that Theodore Roosevelt, his teaching and his personality shall be forgotten. Oh, that we might have him with us now!
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