Indomitable: The Faith and Principles of Theodore Roosevelt

History with Heart of Dakota

Who was Theodore Roosevelt?

“The problem with meeting Roosevelt face to face is that you have to go in hating him an awful lot not to come out liking him even more.” – unknown political opponent of Roosevelt’s (Grant 137)

When it comes to American heroes, few accomplished as much as Theodore Roosevelt did in his lifetime. Over nearly 61 years, Theodore Roosevelt…

…the list of his accomplishments goes on and would be worthy of their own blog post. However, today I am going to focus on what fueled all these exploits: Theodore Roosevelt’s indomitable spirit, his principles, and his faith.

An indomitable spirit

“He was forever defying the odds, defying all reason, defying the very physical realities of life in this poor fallen world.” – biographer George Grant (31)

Theodore Roosevelt never had it easy in life. Although many people think of him as being “fit as a Bull Moose,” (Grant 29) as a young boy, he suffered from severe asthma. “I was a sickly, delicate boy,” he would later recall. “[I] suffered much from asthma, and frequently had to be taken away on trips to find a place where I could breathe.” (Grant 32) Concerned that Theodore might live his whole life an invalid, his father told him, “Theodore, you have the mind but you have not the body. And without the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body. It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it.” (Grant 34) Theodore’s response was characteristic: “I’ll make my body. By heaven, I will.” (Grant 35)

Principles of a leader

“Right is right and wrong is wrong. Woe be unto the man who shies away from the battle for justice and righteousness simply because the minions of injustice and unrighteousness are arrayed against him.” – Theodore Roosevelt (Grant 113)

One thing that stands out about Theodore Roosevelt is his unflinching dedication to principles. The circumstances of his life varied wildly – from frontiersman to American President. However, the way he conducted his life never changed. He treated each person with genuine interest, regardless of their race or cultural standing. Also, although he believed in peace, he was willing to fight for worthwhile causes. “I abhor unjust war,” he once commented. “I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at the expense of the weak, whether among nations or individuals. I abhor violence and bloodshed. But it takes strength to put a stop to abhorrent things.” (Grant 129)

Because of his unwillingness to advocate peace at any price, some critics labeled him a “warmonger.” Nonetheless, although Roosevelt built up America’s military might, his two terms as president were “among the most peaceful and harmonious in all of American history.” (Grant 128)

Christian faith

“Walk humbly; you will do so if you study the life and teachings of the Savior, walking in His steps.” – Theodore Roosevelt (Grant 186)

Unlike some historical figures, there is no doubt as to whether or not Theodore Roosevelt was a Christian. He once said, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” (Grant 167) His own life proved this to be correct. The principles he lived by owed their roots to none other than the Bible. For Theodore, the Bible contained truths that deserved to be lived out, whether he was enacting public policy or capturing boat thieves in the Dakota territories. “Every thinking man…” he argued, “realizes that the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure ourselves what that life would be if these standards were removed.” (Grant 168)

A legacy worth carrying on

“Before a man can discipline other men, he must demonstrate his ability to discipline himself. Before he may be allowed the command of commission, he must evidence command of character. Look then to the work of his hands. Hear the words of his mouth. By his fruit you shall know him.”  – Theodore Roosevelt (Grant 163)

As I studied to write this blog post, I was struck by how practical Roosevelt’s principles still are today. We all have people who look up to us in some way, shape, or form. From Roosevelt’s dedication to leading by example, we can learn how to better influence those people. We all fear failure sometimes. To us, Roosevelt says, “There is no disgrace in a failure, only in a failure to try.” (Grant 142)

Finally, there are times – especially when raising a family – that we feel insignificant when we consider our personal successes. After a lifetime of personal success, Roosevelt tells us, “No other success in life – not being President, or being wealthy, or going to college, or anything else – comes up to the success of the man and woman who can feel that they have done their duty and that their children and grandchildren rise up to call them blessed.” (Grant 91)

In a day and age when relativism and narcissism rules, we would do well to emulate Roosevelt’s solid faith and selflessness. More importantly, Roosevelt’s example should cause us to look up and see the Savior that he so loved. In the end, just as it was with Roosevelt, so it is with us; in Christ alone can we find the strength to live with indomitable greatness.

Which HOD guides can you find Theodore Roosevelt in?

You can find Theodore Roosevelt in several of Heart of Dakota’s guides! He can be found in Little Hearts for His Glory, Missions to Modern Marvels, and US History II. You can also find a more in-depth study of him in George Grant’s excellent book The Courage and Character of Theodore Roosevelt, which students read in the Boy Living Library package in US History II.

Bibliography

Grant, G. The Courage and Character of Theodore Roosevelt. (Cumberland House Publishing Inc., 2005).

 

PS: Want a closer look at Theodore Roosevelt’s childhood and homeschooling? Have a look at this excellent video playlist by Notgrass History