Sunday, November 30, 2008

Teddy Rex

My token tourist activity during my trip to NYC this week was a visit to Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace. I read Theodore Rex a few years ago and admittedly fell in love with the dynamic character that was Teddy Roosevelt (despite qualms about his policies). That book is the second in a three part series by Edmund Morris - Rex only covers his presidency. 28 E. 20th Street in New York was his birthplace and monument to the first 14 years of his life. What a fascinating life!

Fun factoids about Teddy I picked up yesterday:
  • Second of five children
  • Severely asthmatic youth which he combatted with exercise and trips to the countryside
  • Mother was a hardcore Southern belle who had Teddy and his siblings packing and sending care packages to the South during the Civil War
  • Totally homeschooled, Teddy excelled at modern languages and natural sciences, but was very poor at Greek, Latin, and math
  • Started taxidermy at age 12
  • Went on a year long African Safari immediately after exiting the presidency

The museum also had a couple galleries dedicated to the rest of Teddy's life. You have to respect the man for being such a voracious reader, prolific writer, disciplined athlete, and dedicated student his entire life. He was truly a Renassiance man. I started to express my admiration and my museum companian grumbled in disgust that he was a terrible president that paved the way for many future government interventionist policies. True. My friend said his personal accomplishments make no difference.

I am a sucker for the libertarian view that unexperienced politicians make the best politicians. If they don't know what the heck they are doing, they are less likely to accomplish much of anything. But the last time I employed this argument with a professor of mine (I think we were arguing over the viability of Palin), he shook his head. "Whitney, wouldn't you rather the person derermining this country's policies be better educated than you?" Hmmm, instinctually yes, but that's such an elitist view! The professor retorted, "What's wrong with elitism?" Ah, an honest Democrat! If I trusted our political system to be one based on merit instead of corruption, then I would be fine with the elitism, but an elitism based more on cronyism turns my stomach (this goes for either party). Even if I disagree with Teddy Roosevelt's policies - at least he had a consistent rationale, historical justifications, and experience to back them up. That's something I have mad respect for.

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