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Theodore Roosevelt

  b. 1858; d. 1919 | American politician

At The Bottom
 1884

Roosevelt wrote in his diary that "the light has gone out of my life."

On Valentine’s Day 1884, two days after the birth of his first child, Theodore Roosevelt experienced an unthinkable loss when his wife and mother died on the same day.  Stricken with grief, Roosevelt wrote in his diary that “the light has gone out of my life.” He tried to resume his work as a New York state assemblyman — an office to which he’d been elected three years before at the age of 23 — but Roosevelt had lost his zest for the political life he’d chosen.  At the 1884 Republican national convention, Roosevelt and his like-minded party members watched as his party nominated a candidate who was not interested in reforming political corruption.  Disappointed and still aching from the loss of his wife and mother, Roosevelt left office and retired to a ranch he’d purchased in the Dakota Territory.

At The Top
 1904

Roosevelt became the youngest president in US history at the age of 42.

Twenty years later, Theodore Roosevelt had returned to public life in a big way.  After several years on the frontier, he moved back to New York and returned to politics.  He served as president of the board of the New York City Police Commissioners, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Governor of New York before receiving the Vice Presidential nomination in 1900.  Along the way, he had fought in the Spanish-American War and became a national hero for leading his men to victory at the famous battle of San Juan and Kettle Hills.  When President William McKinley was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in 1901, Roosevelt became the youngest president in US history at the age of 42.  He was an energetic and reform-oriented leader, and he was tremendously popular with the general public.  In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt was elected in his own right, and over the next four years he solidified his record as one of America’s greatest presidents, with a particular emphasis on conservation and creating major vast new parks.

The Comeback

He dealt with his personal losses by working hard not to think about them...

Though Roosevelt had been a sickly child, he compensated with a feisty personality and never retreated from difficulty.  After several years in the Dakotas, Roosevelt was determined to overcome his grief and to make a difference in politics.  He dealt with his personal losses by working hard not to think about them and by not dwelling on circumstances he could not change.  When he returned to politics, he pushed for changes that were not always popular with those in power, but which he believed were in the best interests of ordinary people.

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