Making Progress: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt

As a young boy, Roosevelt often struggled to breathe at night because of his asthma. Although modern doctors would be appalled, Roosevelt’s doctors suggested that the boy smoke cigars to improve his symptoms.

His family thought Roosevelt’s brother, Elliot (later father of Eleanor Roosevelt), was most likely to succeed. Elliot struggled with alcoholism, however. Theodore soon outpaced his brother both physically and mentally. He was a voracious reader and would read almost anywhere about almost any subject. Even as president he snuck a few minutes between appointments to read nature books.


Photo of Theodore Roosevelt 1918

After McKinley’s death the presidency was thrust upon Roosevelt. He was one of the few men who genuinely enjoyed the job. While in office he expanded the authority of the president. Roosevelt believed that the president could do whatever the law didn’t specifically prohibit him from doing.

Roosevelt engaged in a number of presidential firsts. He was the first president to understand and use the press to gain public support for his programs. In fact, Roosevelt enjoyed talking with the press so much that he spoke to a reporter during his morning shave. Roosevelt was also the first president to invite an African American (Booker T. Washington) to dinner at the White House.

Roosevelt’s administration was the first to actually apply the anti-trust law signed under President Benjamin Harrison. Roosevelt believed that while successful businesses could merge, their mergers needed to be regulated. By the time he left office, Roosevelt had brought over 20 anti-trust suits.

Although he loved being president, Roosevelt was disappointed to preside over the country in a time of peace. He believed that he could not be a great president without steering the nation through a great crisis. He also regretted that he promised not to serve for a third term. That did not stop him from running for the office several years later, however.

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