Tuesday, April 30, 2013
"Theodore Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Campaign of 1912” won the Eric Sevareid best documentary award at the Midwest Journalism Conference in Bloomington, Minn., April 12-13. Journalists from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin competed for the prestigious award, which is named after prominent journalist and correspondent Eric Sevareid. The documentary was a joint project between the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University (DSU), Dickinson, N.D., and Prairie Public.
The 20-minute audio documentary explores Roosevelt’s 1912 presidential campaign. Having lost the Republican Party nomination, he founded the National Progressive Party in 1912, which almost immediately became known as the “Bull Moose Party” after Roosevelt said he felt “fit as a bull Moose” to run for a third term.
Independent producer Meg Luther Lindholm of Fargo, N.D., was inspired to create the documentary when she attended the Theodore Roosevelt Symposium at DSU in September 2012. The symposium theme was “The Progressive in the Arena.”
“I was fascinated by the discussions of TR’s life in politics and I wanted to bring the symposium discussion to a wider audience,” Lindholm said. “I was familiar with some aspects of TR’s political life – but I had never connected the dots or seen the forest for the trees. In other words, I had never understood the arc of his political life and thought.”
At the symposium, Lindholm met with many scholars, including historian Nancy Unger of Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, Calif., and Theodore Roosevelt Scholar Clay Jenkinson, both of whom are featured in the documentary.
“Our symposia attract outstanding scholars from all over the world,” Jenkinson said. She (Lindholm) was able to interview many of them over the course of three days.”
The documentary also compares the central social issues surrounding the 1912 campaign to those facing America today: the role of government and its obligation to its people. Lindholm used actual audio recordings of Roosevelt’s campaign speeches to illuminate his stance on these issues.
“My greatest discovery was the audio recordings of TR that were made as he campaigned for the presidency in 1912,” Lindholm said. “I loved using some excerpts from these speeches in the documentary.”
One such recording, from his “Right of the People to Rule” campaign speech, which addresses the role of government, is transcribed below.
“The great fundamental issue now before our people can be stated briefly. It is, are the American people fit to govern themselves, to rule themselves, to control themselves? I believe they are. My opponents do not. I believe in the right of the people to rule. I believe that the majority of the plain people of the United States will, day in and day out, make fewer mistakes in governing themselves than any smaller class or body of men, no matter what their training, will make in trying to govern them,” Roosevelt said.
According to Jenkinson and Unger, this debate continues in today’s America.