One hundred years ago the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a number of readers’ poems related to the escalating war situation. As it turns out one of the submissions was by none other than Hermann Hagedorn. When Theodore Roosevelt died two years later Hagedorn became the secretary of the Roosevelt Memorial Association. He later became the director, a position he held until 1957. For more check out this post I did in 2014 on the 50th anniversary of Hagedorn’s death.
Hagedorn was a longtime acquaintance of Roosevelt. As the son of a German immigrant he was helpful in Roosevelt’s campaign against “hyphenated Americanism” in the lead-up to American involvement in the Great War. It is important to remember that Roosevelt himself had had a strong attachment to Germany prior to the war; for starters he had traveled through the country with his family as a youth, and while he was president his daughter Alice christened the kaiser’s yacht. Hagedorn believed passionately that Americans of German origin should embrace their new nation. Still, the relationship between the two was more than that. Like Roosevelt Hagedorn was a man of letters who appreciated the written word. It is safe to guess that “Challenge’ did not win any literary awards, but the poem is a fascinating look at that moment just before the United States became involved in the First World War.