The Humility of Theodore Roosevelt
“It is a humbling matter to consider the wide gulf, the gaping chasm, that exists in this poor sin-besotted world, between creature and Creator.” Theodore Roosevelt
By any account, Teddy Roosevelt was a remarkable man, and his accomplishments are staggering and a little intimidating to the average human. As a young boy he overcame severe health problems including asthma and a very puny body. As a politician, he served as a New York state legislator, police commisioner, under secretary of the Navy, Vice President of the U.S. and two terms as President. He wrote almost 60 books on everything from natural science, history, biographies, to political and social conflicts. He led a regiment in the Spanish-American war, leading a charge up both Kettle and San Juan hills.
He was an accompished horseman, cattle rancher and handy with firearms. A decent boxer he sparred with champions and he hunted on four continents. He led expeditions, including finding the source for a remote South American river. As president he was the first to start the fight for de-segregation of the schools and the first to invite black leaders, like Booker T. Washington, who acted as a advisor to Teddy, to the White House. Whatever his schedule, he managed to read 5 books a week and even taught a sunday school class on a regular basis for decades.
He also was the first president to set aside land for national forests, parks and wilderness areas, and started the Boone and Crockett club to insure Americns always had wild game and a place to hunt it. Not to belittle what he himself thought the most important of duties, he was a loving and devoted husband, writing letters to his wife almost daily, and a very involved and loved father to his two daughters and four sons.
How did he view himself? He wrote;
“In most things I am just about average; in some things I am a little under rather than over. I am only an ordinary walker, I can’t run. I am not a good swimmer, though a strong one. I probably ride better than anything else I do, but I certainly am not a remarkably good rider. I am not a good shot. I could never be a good boxer, though I keep at it, when ever I can., My eye sight prevents me from being a good tennis player…I am not a brilliant writer. I have written a great deal, but I always have to work and slave over everything I write. The things I have done are all, with the possible exc eption of the Panama Canal, just such things as any ordinary man could have done. There is nothing brilliant or outstanding in my record at all.”
(TR quoted by Wagenknecht, in “The Seven Worlds of Theodore Roosevelt”,p. 152)
His humility probably was tied to his big picture of the world which he stated as below;
“It is a humbling matter to consider the wide gulf, the gaping chasm that exists in this poor sin-besotted world, between creature and Creator.” (TR, in Wills, “The letters and Speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, p.67)
The reality of a fallen creation and its Creator God was not something to scoff at or write off as a myth for TR, it was part of his accurate, working, worldview. At least at this level, TR tied himself to a literal historic view of the book of Genesis. Something that seems to be sadly lacking in contemporary politics as our presidents become increasingly “modern” , hip, and “sophisticated” (pagan) in their thinking. It also might help to explain why so many contemporary leaders seem to have a higher opinion of themselves then may be warranted by their accomplishments.