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Fatherly Frustration

Jan 31, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt's letters to his son Kermit are extremely fascinating. He appears to be more candid with Kermit than with others with whom he corresponded, allowing clear insights into Theodore Roosevelt's thinking and character. In one letter to Kermit, TR explains his reasoning for continuing his plans after an assassination attempt, giving us a glimpse at the man behind the Bull Moose. Another letter allows us to relate to TR as a father.

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, March 15, 1908. MS Am 1541 (221). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.

Theodore Roosevelt writes to Kermit about Ted, who is a junior at Harvard. Apparently, Ted has been skipping class and is now on probation. TR has received a letter from the Dean, from whom he has learned that Ted skipped thirty-eight lectures "without sufficient excuse." This is a rather significant number of lectures to miss, and TR finds such behavior completely ridiculous. He is out of patience with Ted for being "such an utter goose."

TR inserts some philosophy into his rant about Ted's wanton disregard for his education. As so many parents do, he laments his son's inability to "understand the folly" of simply not trying. He ruminates on the fact that, while many occurrences are out of our control, "[t]he only way to come out ahead is not wantonly to court defeat where by the exercise of ordinary prudence and fore-thought and skill and resolution it is possible to be sure of victory."

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, March 15, 1908. MS Am 1541 (221). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.

This passage is very reflective and revealing. Not only does TR open his heart about his fears for his son, but he also reveals his way of approaching the world. While he realizes that the world will sometimes do its best to defeat a person, that person must do all he can to be prepared for it. What I appreciate most about this letter is that it reveals the father that Theodore Roosevelt remained throughout his presidency.

Posted by Keri Youngstrand on Jan 31, 2013 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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