Theodore Roosevelt



“ I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless and who could hold their own in the world, and I had a great desire to be like them.”


Theodore Roosevelt was one of the strongest leaders in the history of the United States. He was a New York City Police Commissioner, leader of the famous Rough Riders, Governor of New York, and eventually the 26th President of the United States. As a symbol for his success, he is a part of Mount Rushmore next to other presidential greats like Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson. Theodore Roosevelt is a one of a kind leader and a role model and inspiration, as well as a great example of strong leadership skills.

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Early Life


“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”


Theodore Roosevelt was born October 27, 1858 into an affluent family. Although wealthy, Roosevelt was plagued by poor health, having a very severe case of asthma. Listening to his father, Roosevelt saw what exercise would help with his asthma and started boosting his confidence. Roosevelt later learned how to box to maximize his strength and toughness he so desired. Because of his poor health, Roosevelt was mostly home schooled. He then attended Harvard in 1876 and graduated four years later with an A.B. magna cum laude. He was a student at Columbia Law School shortly after graduating Harvard but quickly dropped out over lack of interest.

Leading the Rough Riders

During the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt helped create the first volunteer cavalry in the United States, known as the Rough Riders. Mostly made up of college athletes, cowboys, and ranchers, Roosevelt led these group of soldiers to victory in the famous Battle at San Juan Hill. Because of his bold and courageous action and his victory in Cuba, Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. This was when Roosevelt’s leadership really became apparent to the people and was loved when he arrived back in the United States, especially in New York, where he was elected governor.

Police Commissioner


Although Roosevelt accomplished many things in his life, one thing I truly admire is his important role as Police Commissioner. At this time in the late 1800’s, the NYPD was known as a very corrupt system. Once Roosevelt emerged as the commissioner, he transformed the police department into what it is today. Theodore Roosevelt implemented regular inspections of firearms and yearly physical exams to all officers. As said by Jacob Riis, famous muckraker who wrote How the Other Half Lives, “ For two years we were brothers in (New York City’s crime-ridden) Mulberry Street. When he left I had seen its golden age… There is very little ease where Theodore Roosevelt leads, as we all of us found out.” Riis’s quote justifies my belief that Roosevelt’s leadership style as commissioner was one his best accomplishments

26th President of the United States

“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

After the assassination of McKinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th president of the United States. As President, Roosevelt’s number one goal was to protect the citizens of the United States. He was referred to as the “Trust Buster” because of his policies on big corporations. He alone broke up over 40 trusts, the biggest one being Standard Oil. Also, the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act was passed while he was in office. During the two terms he served as president, he might be best remembered for his foreign policy. One of these policies was the Big Stick Policy. This is the idea of negotiating peacefully with a country, at the same time threatening them with our military power. One of Roosevelt’s classic displays of big stick diplomacy occurred during the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–1903. Perceiving a German challenge to the Monroe Doctrine, TR ordered a battleship squadron to the waters near Venezuela, insisted on an arbitrated settlement, and privately issued two timely and stern ultimatums to Germany, which finally capitulated to his demands.

Progressive Movement

Before the official start of the Progressive Movement, Roosevelt showed ideas of progressivism when he was the police commissioner of the NYPD. As mentioned earlier, Roosevelt worked hand in hand with Jacob Riis to make the city of New York a better place. Riis was a progressivist, uncovering the deplorable conditions that the residents lived in. Along with Riis, this was the first time Roosevelt displayed his progressive beliefs. One example of this was the New York State Tenement House Act in 1901. There were tenement laws put in place prior to this one but this was the strongest of its time. This act was so strong because of the muckraking and progressive action taken by Roosevelt, which had a lasting impact on New York City.

Theodore Roosevelt was part of something known as the progressive movement. Roosevelt strongly supported Taft in the 1908 election and his goal was to make him his protege. Taft easily won the election, and that is when Taft and Roosevelt grew apart. Roosevelt did not like Tafts views on certain things and at a speech Osawatomie, Kansas in 1910, Roosevelt openly initiated his break from the Taft administration and the conservative Republicans. Roosevelt wrote a series of articles for The Outlook, defending what he called “the great movement of our day, the progressive nationalist movement against special privilege, and in favor of an honest and efficient political and industrial democracy.” Roosevelt then started the Progressive Party, better known as the Bull Moose along with Albert Beveridge and Gifford Pinchot. This is a great example of how Theodore Roosevelt worked with others and shows that he was part of a large movement.

Leadership Qualities

Social Skill


Social skill is one of the key elements in emotional intelligence, a key component every great leader has. Theodore Roosevelt felt that relationships with others was very important. On this topic, Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” Like mentioned before he became friends with Jacob Riis and together they fought to make New York City a better place. Roosevelt also made great relations with his fellow soldiers in the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt and his Rough Riders teamed together to win the Battle at San Juan Hill. Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena Speech in 1910 is another great example of his social skill. His words are powerful and shows his belief and position and what it means to be a great leader for society.


Man in the Arena Speech


Theodore Roosevelt delivered a powerful speech at the Sorbonne in Paris in April of 1910 titled Citizenship in a Republic, more commonly known as the Man in the Arena Speech. This is a very powerful speech that exemplifies his style of leadership. One quote that I thought perfectly described his leadership style was “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” Someone who is heavily involved in a situation that requires courage, skill, or tenacity, as opposed to someone sitting on the sidelines and watching, is referred to as “The Man in the Arena.” I believe that this shows how Roosevelt leads because growing up very sick, he learned to be strong lived the “Strenuous Life.” This is displayed in all of his leadership roles from police commissioner to president and everything inbetween. Theodore Roosevelt was definitely not someone who sat back on the sidelines. Another great example of him not sitting on the sidelines was when he led the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. He simply didn’t tell them to fight, he fought alongside them, willing to die for his country. As Police Commissioner, he had no trouble trying to bring down corrupt politicians, as he did with Boss Tweed at Tammany Hall. As President he also had no problem attacking large corporations, earning himself the nickname “The Trust Buster.” As a leader Roosevelt was not intimidated by any one person or any policy and the quote from this powerful speech proves how he lead.


Critical Reflection


After dropping out of Columbia Law School, Roosevelt pursued a career in politics. In 1881 he was elected to the New York State Assembly where he became a leader in the reform faction in the Republican Party. Life was good for Roosevelt until unimaginable tragedy struck. In February of 1884, his wife and his mother died on the same day, in the same house. Roosevelt was stricken with grief and decided to take a break from politics and move out west. Roosevelt became a cattle rancher in the badlands of the Dakotas to escape the death of his loved ones. While all alone in the west, Roosevelt had plenty of time to critically reflect on his life thus far. This was a life changing experience for Roosevelt because after a bad winter, he returned to the Big Apple and made strict reform as police commissioner.


Theodore Roosevelt was a very popular man by the American people and very few disliked him or his policies. One thing that I feel Roosevelt believed in that could be criticized was his Big Stick Policy. Although effective, other politicians and come countries could have viewed this foreign policy as bullying. Although this policy was to bring “peaceful” negotiations, Roosevelt still threatened to use military force to coerce a country to comply to his demands.

About the Author


My name is Julius Marter and I am a freshman at College. I am from Long Island, only about an hour away from My goal is to major in Political Science and eventually attend law school. My career goal is to become a criminal prosecutor. I admire Theodore Roosevelt greatly and feel like he was one of the best politicians in the state of New York. If I end up becoming a politician with my Political Science degree, I would definitely look to Theodore Roosevelt as a role model.


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