2016 Theodore Roosevelt Symposium

Theodore Roosevelt: Candidate in the Arena

September 29-October 1, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt shakes hands with Silver Dollar TaborTheodore Roosevelt campaigned strenuously in 1900, when he was selected as William McKinley’s running mate. During that campaign, Roosevelt denounced Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan as a socialist, an incendiary, and “a human trombone.”

The 1912 election involved the Republican establishment working—in some ways legitimately, in some ways corruptly—to deny the insurgent candidate Roosevelt the presidential nomination, even though he was without question the favorite of the majority of Republicans throughout the country.

This symposium considered the presidential elections of 1900, 1904, and 1912, during which North Dakota held the first ever presidential primary election in America. The program included the live re-enactment of an early 20th-century political convention on the Stickney Auditorium stage.

Image courtesy of History Colorado. 


Speakers included:



Theodore Roosevelt was, to some degree or another, a factor in nine presidential elections. He was criticized for remaining in the Republican Party in 1884, and condemned as a drag on the Hughes campaign in 1916. In between, Roosevelt helped to transform electioneering, shift the federal power balance from Congress to the White House, create the first modern presidency, and make the nation’s highest office reflect his own initiatives and style to an extent that resonates in today’s political world. Historian Stacy A. Cordery sets the stage for our symposium by exploring the changing nature of American elections, with a particular focus on the political ambitions of Theodore Roosevelt.

BiographyStacy Cordery has authored four books: a best-selling biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth; Theodore Roosevelt: In the Vanguard of the ModernHistoric Photographs of Theodore Roosevelt; and a biography of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low. After two decades as department chair and professor of History at Monmouth College, Cordery recently joined the faculty in the History Department at Iowa State University. She is the bibliographer for the National First Ladies Library and served as the first distinguished fellow with the Theodore Roosevelt Center in 2011. A sought-after speaker, Cordery has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, Weekend Edition, and the Diane Rehm Show.



Although his aristocratic friends considered politics a sordid and corrupt enterprise, Roosevelt was determined to enter the arena where the public welfare was hammered out. In 1881, Roosevelt became the youngest-ever member of the New York State Assembly, where he distinguished himself for his snazzy clothing and his impassioned commitment to reform. Paul Grondahl will explore TR’s rise to political prominence, his style as a young political reformer, his unsuccessful campaign to be the mayor of New York City, and his election, in 1898, as Governor of New York. 

Biography: Paul Grondahl is an award-winning journalist and author. He has been a staff writer at the Albany Times Union since 1984 and the author of four books, including I Rose Like a Rocket which is a biographical analysis of Theodore Roosevelt’s political education. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including Smithsonian magazine, Newsday, The New York Times Book Review, the Houston Chronicle, and other newspapers. Grondahl lives in Guilderland, N.Y.



On October 14, 1912, Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot in Milwaukee by a disgruntled saloon keeper named John Schrank. He not only survived the shooting, but in the immediate aftermath gave his scheduled speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium. He spoke for more than 80 minutes before allowing his campaign aides to take him to the hospital. Gerard Helferich gives a fascinating account of how Schrank pursued TR cross-country with murderous intent, until he finally found his opportunity outside the Gilpatrick Hotel in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was saved by his steel spectacles case and his folded-up speech.

Biography: Gerard Helferich is the author of four highly praised books, including Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, he publishes book reviews in the Wall Street Journal and has contributed to the Fodor's travel guides to Mexico and Guatemala. Since 2003 he has been on the faculty of the Columbia Publishing Course at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Before turning to writing in 2002, he was an editor and publisher for 25 years at companies such as Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, and John Wiley & Sons. 



When President William McKinley stood for re-election in 1900, he famously spent the campaign season on his porch in Canton, Ohio, and well-wishers came to pay him respect. His new running mate Theodore Roosevelt barnstormed America on behalf of McKinley, sound money, internationalism, and a strong military. Taking advantage of the nation’s extensive railroad network, Roosevelt visited 480 communities in 23 states in 1900. With typical strenuosity and confidence, Roosevelt re-invented political campaigning, just as he would re-invent the Presidency, and to a certain extent re-invent America. And the 1900 campaign was just a modest warmup for TR’s 1903 “conservation journey” through the Midwest and American West.

Biography: John M. Hilpert is the author of American Cyclone: Theodore Roosevelt and His 1900 Whistle-Stop Campaign. He capped a successful higher education career with presidencies at Northern State University in South Dakota and Delta State University in Mississippi. Earlier, he served vice presidencies at the University of South Dakota and at two independent liberal arts colleges. He also served three terms as chairman of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools board of directors and in 2015 was presented with its highest lifetime achievement recognition. Hilpert holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where he was awarded the John S. Brubacher Award for excellence in research on the history of higher education.  



In early 1912, across the country, male political leaders remained overwhelmingly uninterested in reforming the suffrage to admit women. In the 42 years since women had first organized to gain the vote, not a single presidential candidate from either the Republican or Democratic Party had endorsed the idea. Nor, as president, had Theodore Roosevelt endorsed it, since, as he told a friend, he considered the matter unimportant. Later in 1912, as it became clear that he was going to run again for president, suffrage leaders hoped he could be converted to supporting their cause. Louise Knight will trace the politics of the fight for women’s suffrage in the presidential election of 1912, consider Roosevelt’s embrace of the reform, and ponder the place of his campaign in the larger history of the suffrage movement.

Biography: Louise (Lucy) W. Knight is an author, lecturer and historian. She has written two biographies of Jane Addams, including Jane Addams: Spirit in Action. She lectures often at universities, including Harvard University, the University of Wisconsin, and Wellesley College, as well as speaks to organizations ranging from chapters of the American Association of University Women, to the League of Women Voters, to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. In her lectures, book talks, and other writings, she explores the connections between early and current progressive civic action.




Thursday, September 29, 2016

6:00 p.m.  Registration - May Hall 
7:00 p.m. Welcome and Introductions
7:30 p.m. Keynote Address: Stacy Cordery - “Bombast and Apocalypse (And That Was 1912!)” 
8:30 p.m. Book Signing with Stacy Cordery

Friday, September 30, 2016

8:00 a.m. Registration/Continental Breakfast - May Hall
9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks
9:15 a.m. Paul Grondahl - “'I Rose Like a Rocket': The Political Rise of Theodore Roosevelt”
10 a.m. Q & A with Paul Grondahl
10:30 a.m. Break & Book Signing with Paul Grondahl
10:45 a.m. John Hilpert - “On the Hustings: Traveling America with Theodore Roosevelt”
11:25 a.m. Q & A with John Hilpert
11:45 a.m. Break & Book Signing with John Hilpert
Noon Lunch
1:00 p.m. Gerard Helferich - “'He pinked me!' - The Bull Moose and Assassination”
1:40 p.m.  Q & A with Gerard Helferich
2:00 p.m. Break & Book Signing with Gerard Helferich
2:15 p.m. Louise Knight - “Theodore Roosevelt and the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage”
3:00 p.m. Q & A with Louise Knight
3:30 p.m. Break & Book Signing with Louise Knight
4:30 p.m. Social
5:15 p.m. Dinner
7:00 p.m. “Theodore Roosevelt: Candidate in the Arena” 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Field trip-Medora

8:00 a.m. Registration for Field Trip/Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Visit the future home of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library 
9:30 a.m. Depart for Medora 
10:30 a.m. Panel with guest scholars - A wide-ranging discussion and synthesis of symposium themes 
12:30 p.m. Lunch and field trip
4 p.m. Closing reception - North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Medora

Stacy Cordery

Keynote Address: Stacy Cordery: Bombast and Apocalypse (And That Was 1912!)

Paul Grondahl

Paul Grondahl: “I Rose Like a Rocket” : the Political Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.


John Hilpert

John Hilpert: On the Hustings: Traveling America with Theodore Roosevelt


Gerard Helferich

Gerard Helferich: “He Pinked Me!” – The Bull Moose and Assassination.


Louise Knight 

Louise Knight: Theodore Roosevelt and the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage.


Presenters and Valerie 

Presenters in the Badlands. 


Clay as TR 

Clay Jenkinson as Theodore Roosevelt.


Don as Bryan 

Don Moon as William Jennings Bryan. 



Melanie Bayless Veteto as a supporter of women’s suffrage.


Don, Tom and Clay

William Jennings Bryan, moderator Dr. Thomas Mitzel, and Theodore Roosevelt.


All Four

The cast of the Friday night debate.


Medora panel

Panel discussion in Medora.