History teacher has soft spot for Teddy

July 03, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE


Bully for Darwin Seiler.

He's giving a talk at the Waynesboro Rotary Club this week on Theodore Roosevelt - cowboy, writer, adventurer, world traveler, war hero, Nobel Peace Prize winner and the nation's 26th president.

Seiler, 50, teaches advanced placement American history and is the varsity football coach at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

Seiler's speeches on historic topics for the last four years have become somewhat of a Rotary Club Fourth of July tradition.

His subjects have included George Washington, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and Revolutionary War Gen. Anthony Wayne, for whom the Borough of Waynesboro was named.


He said his all-time favorite president is Andrew Jackson, but he picked Teddy Roosevelt this time because the robust chief executive who presided over the country at the turn of the 20th century gives him plenty to talk about.

Seiler, of Blue Ridge Summit, said he likes Jackson because he was the first common man to become president.

Unlike Jackson and many presidents before him, Roosevelt was not born in a log cabin. His parents were wealthy New Yorkers, but as president, Roosevelt never forgot the common man, Seiler said.

His 1904 campaign slogan, "A Square Deal," promised opportunity for all.

Roosevelt was William McKinley's vice president. He was thrust into the presidency in 1901 when McKinley was assassinated four months into his second term.

Roosevelt was 42, the youngest man ever to hold the office. John F. Kennedy was 43 when he was elected.

"I picked Roosevelt because the man fascinates me," Seiler said. "History is more than dates and numbers. It's about great stories, and Teddy Roosevelt is a great story."

"He was the first president to take the side of organized labor. It was during the Pennsylvania anthracite strike in 1902," Seiler said. "He also clamped down on trusts and monopolies."

Roosevelt brought new excitement and power to the presidency. He vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy, according to a White House Web site.

He took the view that the president, as a steward of the people, should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution, the Web site said.

It quoted Roosevelt as saying, "I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power."

The term, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," is attributed to Roosevelt.

He sent the "Great White Fleet" of battleships around the world to show the American flag, Seiler said.

Roosevelt put public lands under government control and expanded what then was a new national park system.

Roosevelt lived and traveled in the West before his presidency.

"He worked as a cowboy and once was a sheriff in North Dakota," Seiler said.

As a boy, Roosevelt suffered from asthma, so he began an exercise regimen that he kept up throughout his life.

He graduated from Harvard University and married Alice Lee. They had one daughter. Alice Lee died in 1884, four years after they were married. Roosevelt's mother died on the same day, Seiler said.

He married Edith Carow in 1886.

Roosevelt was assistant secretary of the Navy when the Spanish-American War broke out. He resigned the position and formed the Rough Riders, his own volunteer unit.

"Some were cowboys, some polo players, there was a swimming champ in the outfit, they came from all walks of life," Seiler said.

The Rough Riders are famous for their charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba on July 1, 1898.

Roosevelt was nominated to run as McKinley's vice president in the 1900 election.

He ran on his own for president in 1904 and was elected to a full term, promising not to run again in 1908.

Roosevelt picked William Howard Taft to succeed him. When Taft won the 1908 election, Roosevelt set out on a long African safari.

"Many of the mounted animals in the Smithsonian were killed by Roosevelt," Seiler said.

Roosevelt ran against Taft in 1912 on the Progressive Party ticket, but his campaign split the Republicans and Woodrow Wilson, a relatively unknown Democrat, was elected president.

Roosevelt died in 1919.

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