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Theodore Roosevelt
26th U.S. President
Theodore Roosevelt was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909.
Born: October 27, 1858, Manhattan, NY
Died: January 6, 1919, Cove Neck, NY
Presidential term: September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
Children: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Kermit Roosevelt, More
Political parties: Republican Party, Progressive Party

The rising young Republican politician Theodore Roosevelt unexpectedly became the 26th president of the United States in September 1901, after the assassination of William McKinley. Young and physically robust, he brought a new energy to the White House, and won a second term on his own merits in 1904. Roosevelt confronted the bitter struggle between management and labor head-on and became known as the great “trust buster” for his strenuous efforts to break up industrial combinations under the Sherman Antitrust Act. He was also a dedicated conservationist, setting aside some 200 million acres for national forests, reserves and wildlife refuges during his presidency. In the foreign policy arena, Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War and spearheaded the beginning of construction on the Panama Canal. After leaving the White House and going on safari in Africa, he returned to politics in 1912, mounting a failed run for president at the head of a new Progressive Party.

Like McKinley, Roosevelt sought to bring the United States out of its isolationism and fulfill its responsibility as a world power. He believed that America should “speak softly and carry a big stick” in the realm of international affairs and that its president should be willing to use force to back up his diplomatic negotiations. Roosevelt followed this big-stick policy most conspicuously in his dealings in Latin America. In 1903, he helped Panama secede from Colombia in order to facilitate the beginning of construction on the Panama Canal, which he later claimed as his greatest accomplishment as president. The following year, after several European nations had attempted to forcibly collect on debts owed to them by Latin American nations, Roosevelt issued a “corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine stating that the United States would bar foreign intervention in Latin America and act to police the hemisphere, ensuring that countries paid their international debts.

To prepare the United States for its expanded role on the world stage, Roosevelt sought to build up the country’s defenses, and by the end of his presidency he had transformed the U.S. Navy into a major international force at sea. Outside the Western Hemisphere, he led negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. He also reached an agreement with Japan that traded diplomatic recognition of that country in return for Japan’s acceptance of the ongoing U.S. presence in the Philippines.

As the 1908 election approached, Roosevelt prepared grudgingly to fulfill the campaign pledge he had made in 1904 not to seek another term, and threw his support behind Secretary of War William Howard Taft. Immediately after leaving office in early 1909, Roosevelt left for a 10-month African safari and a tour of Europe, where he enjoyed international acclaim. Upon his return, Roosevelt found that President Taft had failed to follow through on the promised program of progressive reforms, instead siding with the more conservative wing of the Republican Party. Incensed, Roosevelt campaigned against Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912; when that effort failed, he and his supporters bolted to form the Progressive Party, popularly known as the Bull Moose Party. (Roosevelt had once referred to himself in a letter as being “as strong as a bull moose.”)

While campaigning in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a fanatic, but soon recovered. With the Republican Party split, Democrat Woodrow Wilson took the White House, winning 435 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 88 (Taft received only eight). Despite the loss, Roosevelt’s run marked the most successful third-party effort in American history, and many of Wilson’s progressive reforms over the next eight years would echo Roosevelt’s 1912 platform. Roosevelt was an early advocate of American entry into World War I, which broke out in Europe in 1914, and strongly criticized Wilson’s early policy of neutrality. Once the United States entered the war in 1917, all four of Roosevelt’s sons volunteered to fight; his beloved youngest son, Quentin, was shot down and killed while flying a mission over Germany. Politically and physically active until the end, Roosevelt died in his sleep on January 6, 1919, at his family home in Oyster Bay, New York, at the age of 60.