MY BROTHER THEODORE ROOSEVELT BY CORINNE ROOSEVELT ROBINSON:
If we had a five star rating system with five stars being a great book this would be a five star book. I first started listening to this book on a two hour drive to Philadelphia with my wife Jane. After about 40 minutes I had said that I did not think there was anything of major political interest in the book. Jane had said that she liked the book and that his sister was showing how the father was a major influence in the later lives of his children. Jane was absolutely correct. Never underestimate the role that a parents examples and words can have in molding the next generation. The first 25% of this book deals with the nurturing that they received from their parents. Corinne Roosevelt Robinson is a brilliant author in her own right. Not because TR gave her great things to write about which was the paint on the canvas that she uses, but she is brilliant because she recognized and wrote about the things which were most important for future generations to read. I clip my favorite paragraphs from each book and keep them in a word document which normally consist of 5 pages because I try to limit the size. This book I have a word document with 20 pages. I include just a few paragraphs of different subjects which cannot be called the best because there are so many of equal rank.
This following paragraph validates the saying that the person we become is because of the books we read, our experiences in life and the people we meet. This is a statement about religious faith by TR late in his life. But one could say that it is TR's father talking through his lips.
"I advocate a man's joining in church work for the sake of showing his faith by his works; I leave to professional theologians the settlement of the question, whether he is to achieve his salvation by his works or by faith which is only genuine if it expresses itself in works. Micah's insistence upon love and mercy, and doing justice and walking humbly with the Lord's will, should suffice if lived up to. ... Let the man not think overmuch of saving his own soul. That will come of itself, if he tries in good earnest to look after his neighbor both in soul and in body—remembering always that he had better leave his neighbor alone rather than show arrogance and lack of tactful-ness in the effort to help him. The church on the other hand must fit itself for the practical betterment of mankind if it is to attract and retain the fealty of the men best worth holding and using."
This paragraph is a Corinne Roosevelt Robinson quote.
Shortly before leaving Dresden I had my twelfth birthday and the Minckwitz clan made every effort to make it a gay festival, but perhaps the gift which I loved best was a letter received that very morning from my beloved father; and in closing this brief account of those days spent in Germany, because of his wise decision to broaden our young horizons by new thoughts and new studies, I wish once more, as I have done several times in these pages, to quote from his words to the little girl in whom he was trying to instill his own beautiful attitude toward life: "Remember that almost every one will be kind to you and will love you if you are only willing to receive their love and are unselfish yourself. Unselfishness, you know, is the virtue that I put above all others, and while it increases so much the enjoyment of those about you, it adds infinitely more to your own pleasure. Your future, in fact, depends very much upon the cultivation of unselfishness, and I know that my darling little girl wishes to practise this quality, but I do wish to impress upon you its importance. As each year passes by, we ought to look back to see what we have accomplished, and also look forward to the future to make up for any deficiencies showing thus a determination to do better, not wasting time in vain regrets." In many ways these words of my father, written when we were so young and so malleable, and impressed upon us by his ever-encouraging example, became one of the great factors in making my brother into the type of man who will always be remembered for that unselfishness instilled into him by his father, and for the determination to do better each day of his life without vain regret for what was already beyond recall.
Here is a great story which is typical TR.
Theodore Roosevelt announced that he would speak to "The 19th Century Club" on "Americanism." A brilliant editor of an able newspaper was asked to make the speech in answer to the address of "the Young Reformer." As I say, I went with my brother to the meeting and sat directly under him in a front seat. It was the first time I had ever heard him speak in public and I confess to having been extremely nervous. He was never an orator, although later his speeches were delivered with great charm of manner and diction, but at this early stage of his career he had not the graces of an older and more finished speaker. I can see him now as he came forward on the platform and began with eager ardor his plea for Americanism. Every fibre of my being responded to him and to his theme, but I seemed to be alone in my response, for the somewhat chilly audience, full of that same armchair criticism of which I have spoken, gave but little response to the desire of the heart of Theodore Roosevelt, and when he had finished his half-hour's presentation of his plea, there was very little applause, and he sat down looking somewhat nervous and disappointed. Then the brilliant man, twice the age of Theodore Roosevelt, who had been chosen to reply to him, rose, and with deft oratorical manipulation rang the changes on every "ism" he could think of, using as his fundamental argument the fact that all "isms" were fads. He spoke of the superstition of spiritualism, the extravagance of fanaticism, the hypocrisy of hypnotism, the plausibility of socialism—and the highbrow members of "The 19th Century Club " were with the brilliant orator from start to finish, and as he closed his subtile argument, which left Americanism high and dry on the shores of faddism, the audience felt that "the Young Reformer" had had his lesson, and gave genuine applause to his opponent.
Half-way through that opponent's address, I confess, on my own part, to having experienced a great feeling of discouragement; not because I agreed with what he said, but because of the effect produced upon the listeners; but suddenly I saw my brother smile the same smile which used to cross his face in later years when some heckler would try to embarrass him from the back of a great hall, and he took a pencil and wrote something on his cuff. The smile was transitory but it gave me fresh hope, and I knew quite well that the audience would hear something worth while, if not to their liking, in the last ten minutes of the evening, when, as I said before, the speaker of the evening was allowed to rebut the rebutter. The clever editor sat down amidst interested applause, and "the Young Reformer" stepped once more forward to the edge of the platform. He leaned far over from the platform, so earnest, so eager was he, and this is what he said: "I believe that I am allowed ten minutes in which to refute the arguments of my opponent. I do not need ten minutes—I do not need five minutes—I hardly need one minute—I shall ask you one question, and as you answer that question, you will decide who has won this argument—myself or the gentleman on the other side of this platform. My question is as follows: If it is true that all isms are fads, I would ask you, Fellow Citizens, what about Patriotism? " The audience rose to its feet; even "The 19th Century Club" could not but acknowledge that patriotism was a valuable attribute for American citizens to possess. That was the first time that Theodore Roosevelt, in public, asked of his fellow countrymen, "What about Patriotism?" but all his life long, from that time on, it was the question forever on his lips, the question which his own life most adequately answered.
One closing paragraph from the book.
One day—in fact, it was the last day that I sat with him in the hospital—he seemed particularly bright and on the near road to recovery. His left arm was still in bandages, but with his strong right hand he gesticulated as of old, and sitting in his armchair, his eyes clear and shining, his face ruddy and animated, he seemed to me to have lost nothing of the vigorous and inspiring personality of earlier days. As usual, he shared my every interest, reiterated his desire to have my little grandson, Douglas, and his sisters pay a visit in the holidays to Sagamore Hill, told me delightedly how he would show Douglas every trophy in the large north room where his trophies were kept, and said that he wanted to know all the children intimately. From family affairs we branched off to public affairs, and speak-ing of the possibilities of the future, he said he knew much depended upon his health, but that he recognized that even amongst those who had been opposed to him in the past, there was now a strong desire for him to be the Republican candidate for President in 1920. Alluding to his birthday so lately passed, he said: "Well, anyway, no matter what comes, I have kept the promise that I made to myself when I was twenty-one." "What promise, Theodore?" I asked him. "You made many promises to yourself, and I am sure have kept them all." "I promised myself," he said, bringing his right fist down with emphasis on the arm of the chair, "that I would work up to the hilt until I was sixty, and I have done it. I have kept my promise, and now, even if I should be an invalid—I should not like to be an invalid—but even if I should be an invalid, or if I should die [this with a snap of his finger and thumb], what difference would it make?" "Theodore," I said, "do you remember what you said to me nearly a year ago when you thought you were dying in this same hospital? You said that you were glad it was not one of your boys that was dying at that time in this place, for they could die for their country. Do you feel the same way now?" "Yes," he said, "just the same way. I wish that I might, like Quentin, have died for my country." "I know you wish it," I answered, "but I want to tell you something. Every one of us—even those not as courageous, not as patriotic, as you are—would, I feel sure, if our country were in peril, be willing to bare our breasts to any bullet, could we, by so doing, protect and save our country; but the trouble is that the very people who, in peril, will give themselves, with absolute disregard of the consequences, to their country's service, fail, utterly, in times of peace, to sacrifice anything whatsoever for their country's good. The difference, Theodore, between you and the majority of us is that you not only are willing and anxious to die for your country, but that you live for your country every day of your life."