Larger than life: the enduring legacy of Theodore Roosevelt

From environmental protections to federal oversight of standards of food safety, the 26th president's policies continue to shape American politics and life today.

Library of Congress
Theodore Roosevelt laughs in this historic portrait from June 17, 1919.

On what would be his 157th birthday, Theodore Roosevelt is getting a statue.

The 7-1/2-foot likeness of the 26th president of the United States was installed outside the mansion in Buffalo, N.Y., where he was sworn into office in 1901, following the assassination of President McKinley. The statue is being unveiled Tuesday.

Mr. Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in the Adirondacks when President McKinley died from a gunshot wound fired by an assassin at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.

A train brought Roosevelt to Albany, and then to Buffalo, where he was sworn in from a friend's mansion on Sept. 14, 1901.

The home that played host to the inauguration was later named Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

In the seven years he was president, Roosevelt introduced many progressive policies, which still affect American daily life. He set up The Bureau of Corporations, a predecessor of the Federal Trade Commission, and an investigative body that took action against corporate monopolies. In the era of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," an expose of grisly conditions in the meatpacking industry, Roosevelt's Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Meat Inspection Act, introduced new consumer protections and oversight.

As a former president, Roosevelt continued to stay in politics, lobbying for public policy that would create "the core of the future federal government – old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, a graduated income tax, child labor laws, and women's suffrage," according to PBS's American Experience.

But perhaps his most celebrated role was as conservationist to the country's natural resources, and making resource protection a mainstay of executive power through the enacting of the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which gives presidents executive power to protect public lands.

Even in the face of rapid industrialization and competing business interests, Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service (USFS) and established scores of protected outdoor spaces: 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments, all through through the Antiquities Act.

During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land; foreseeing what US development could have on natural resources, he once wrote:

We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Larger than life: the enduring legacy of Theodore Roosevelt
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today