A while back I read about a very busy man who was a prolific writer and speaker. He also had a high-profile, government profession and a family. But “when asked of the work he was most proud to have published, he declared that it was his letters to his children.” It was the time he had invested in communicating with his boys.
“Darling Archie: Do you recollect how we all of us used to play hide-and-go-seek? And have obstacle races down the hall when you brought in your friends?”
“Dear Ted: Character counts for a great deal more than either intellect or body in winning success in life.”
“Dearest Quentin: I miss you all dreadfully, and the house feels big and lonely and full of echoes with nobody but me in it… I love you very much.”
This man was one of the greatest figures in our nation’s history. He had many admirers, but none he considered as important as his four boys. He was quick to scrap his responsibilities and “focus on what lesser men would consider the trivial and unimportant duties of fatherhood…finding lizards with his sons, scrambling over rocks with them, or rejoicing in the smallest of their youthful victories and conquests.” He lived out what he believed… that fathering well was essential to meaningful existence. This heroic man was Teddy Roosevelt.
President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday of February and is usually recognized as a day to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These two presidents are certainly worthy of remembrance. But today I want to focus on President Theodore Roosevelt.
As a father who saw it as his mission “to raise sturdy boys”, I found T.R.’s essay “The American Boy,” first published in May of 1900, very interesting, worth reading again today.
“Of course what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won’t be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud….
A boy needs both physical and moral courage. Neither can take the place of the other…
Ridicule is one of the favorite weapons of wickedness, and it is sometimes incomprehensible how good and brave boys will be influenced for evil by the jeers of associates who have no one quality that calls for respect, but who affect to laugh at the very traits which ought to be peculiarly the cause for pride…
He cannot do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice, and fair dealing…”
Theodore Roosevelt understood the relationship “between boyhood, masculinity, leadership, strenuous living, and the future success of the American people.” As you watch the ads announcing President’s Day Sales this year, think of something besides dollars and cents. Think of President Roosevelt who “believed that right was right and that wrong was wrong, and that men can know the difference.” Now that makes real sense! Think of Teddy, who boldly rejoiced in family and above all else wanted to be remembered as a father. Think of how he lived it as a leader and playmate and friend to his children.
How about you?
How do you want to be remembered?
Do what Teddy did. Name it. And live it!
Quotes taken from The Letters and Lessons of Theodore Roosevelt for His Sons, compiled and edited by Doug Phillips