Thursday, June 19, 2008
Walking to work this morning I passed by one of those items on my "must see" list of things to do in New York City - the Theordore Roosevelt Birthplace on East 20th St. To be honest, I have no great desire to visit the top of the Empire State Building (and I work just around the corner) or see the Statue of Liberty. The TR birthplace, however, is up there with Ellis Island, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and the off-limits, original City Hall subway station. Teddy Roosevelt has always been one of my favorite characters in U.S. history, considered by most historians to be our first "modern" chief executive. He certainly represented a paradigmatic shift from the relatively weak presidents of the Gilded Age. And although a Republican by affiliation, he was a Progressive at heart, rankling the pro-business "Stalwarts" of his party. Sure, he's sometimes criticized for an overly bellicose manner, but he understood the art of diplomacy as demonstrated through his role in securing an end to the Russo-Japanese War. (The current president, "getting tough" on terrorism and "spreading freedom" to the rest of the world, may wish to pretend that he represents a throwback to the forceful leadership style of a TR. However, Bush is dwarfed by Roosevelt's intellectual powers and understanding of moral leadership.) Having read David McCullough's Mornings on Horseback, I look forward to visiting the scene of Roosevelt's childhood. And the admission is only $3!