Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

I've never been a person to dive into biographies about former Presidents, but the more stories I've heard about Theodore Roosevelt, the more intrigued I have become. As to be expected there are quite a few biographies and histories written about former and current Presidents, but Edmund Morris' account stood apart as it won the Pulitzer Prize, and subsequently led to Morris being invited to write a biography of then President Ronald Reagan. The book is nearly 800 pages long and has an additional list of 100s of endnotes at the back. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt only covers the period from birth to the moment of William McKinley's Assassination, but wow is it thoroughly engaging!

I only knew a small amount about President Roosevelt as I began reading the book. I knew of his policy and perspectives on native people, I knew of his love for the outdoors, and I knew his "Man in the Arena" speech because it is one of my friend Jake's favorites, and a challenge he often offers to others when he is speaking about Nuru. But, there is so much depth to this former President beyond those wave tops. 

In his path to the Presidency, he had already led a life that was more robust and full than that of many. He was a naturalist, scientist, and prolific writers with hundreds of thousands of pages of written text composed over the course of his lifetime. He was a descendant of some of the earliest Dutch settlers of New York City, and he also was a rancher who followed the call into the West. Beyond these accolades he also became the commissioner of police of New York City, and used that position to fight corruption in the police department and in politics in general. He worked exhaustingly for the cause of the good and the right, and although he was born into an incredibly wealthy family, his exploits to place checks against powerful interests won him the popularity of the masses. 

Beyond the many early exploits of the former President, Morris also comments on Roosevelt's fragility and his overcoming spirit. There's a conversation between father and son in the early chapters of the book where Roosevelt's father tells him "You have the mind, but not the body. You must make your body." and the younger Roosevelt responds, "I must make my body." It was recommended when Roosevelt was young that he not overexert himself because of his weak body he might be putting himself at risk. Roosevelt was an overcomer, and his example stands as a reminder to each and every one of us, that although the road may be long and difficult, we can overcome our circumstances as well. We may not become a future President, but we and those who are around us will benefit most from each of us living the most robust version of our life we can possibly live. 
 highly recommend The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt for anyone looking to learn more about this engaging former President. Morris is an award winning writer, and this is the book that really launched him. Roosevelt as a human being nudges each of us to aspire to be a productive citizen and member of society, and those nudges are able to be seen as a challenge embodied by the challenger as one reads this book. 

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