The other day I received the brochure you see here in the mail. It is for the 11th annual Roosevelt symposium at Dickinson State University in North Dakota. When one thinks of Roosevelt’s legacy the Birthplace in Manhattan and the house in Oyster Bay, Long Island immediately come to mind, along with the Theodore Roosevelt Association too of course. The staff at Dickinson State’s Theodore Roosevelt Center however have been doing an incredible job preserving TR’s legacy. I noted with interest that this year’s focus is Theodore Roosevelt as elective candidate. It is lost on some today how many constituencies to whom Roosevelt had to appeal to in his decades of public service. He entered the arena for the first time in 1884 and remained so more or less continuously until 1912. Like a good politician he could many things to many people: an old Knickerbocker to his Silk Stocking Manhattan neighbors, a Southerner below the Mason-Dixon line through his mother’s side of the family, and a cow poke out West.
In a presidential election year it is easy to see why organizers are focusing on Roosevelt as candidate. Of course his hat was not in the ring 100 years ago; after the fracture of the Republican Party in 1912 he sat out the campaign four years later. He was a perennial thorn in Woodrow Wilson’s backside in the lead-up to the 1916 election. Running on the mantra that he had kept America out of the European war, Wilson defeated Charles Evans Hughes fairly handily. Alas I will not be able to attend the symposium but I do intend to keep an eye on if the TRC will be live streaming the conference, which runs from September 29-October 1.