- He chose “the strenuous life.” A sickly child, Roosevelt benefited from a privileged upbringing and a father who pushed him to throw off weakness through vigorous exercise.
Roosevelt embraced sports and the outdoors. Cautioned not to take stairs because of a bad heart, he climbed the Matterhorn.
- He became fearless. That’s what propelled him to lead his Rough Riders in Cuba during the Spanish- American War.
- He possessed insatiable curiosity, especially as a naturalist and a hunter, but also regarding history, science and current affairs.
- He improved things. As police commissioner of New York City, he helped introduce pistol practice and a bicycle squad, and weeded out bad cops by walking their beats incognito.
“These midnight rambles are great fun,” he told his sister.
While governor of New York, Roosevelt prevented labor unrest by pushing to clean up sweatshops, toughen factory inspections and trim the workday to eight hours.
- He exerted executive power. As assistant secretary of the Navy starting in 1897, Roosevelt believed in decisive sea power. He built up the fleet, realizing along the way that the United States needed a Panama Canal, which he initiated.
When Congress refused to pursue huge monopolies, then-President Roosevelt dogged them himself, directing his Justice Department to start filing lawsuits.
- He had foresight. Running for a third term in 1912 as head of his own Bull Moose Party, Roosevelt espoused a strong national government to advance social progress. His ideas drove social policy for generations.
- He hung tough. Campaigning that fall, Roosevelt was shot in the chest at short range. His speech and his eyeglasses case saved him.
After checking his mouth for blood, Roosevelt concluded that his lungs were OK, and he insisted on delivering the speech. He showed the crowd of 10,000 his bloody shirt and declared: “I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a bull moose.”
—Adapted from “Teddy: How Roosevelt Invented Modern America,” Richard Lacayo et al., Time.