THEODORE ROOSEVELT, "THE STRENUOUS LIFE" (10
TEACHING AND LEARNING MATERIALS
A. Theodore Roosevelt criticized the imperialists of his day
who advocated overseas expansion simply to expand markets or to exploit the
resources of underdeveloped countries--that is, those who advocated expansion
for economic reasons. Instead, he
invoked the "strenuous life" as the rationale for a foreign policy of
active international engagement. What sorts
of arguments and evidence does he use to make the case for and against each
B. Go to the "Sound Recordings of Theodore Roosevelt's
Voice" at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/troosevelt_film/trfsnd.html
(the Library of Congress American Memory Collection). Click on one of the links and listen to Roosevelt. How
does his delivery (e.g., rate of speech, inflection, tone) influence your
perception of his message?
C. Roosevelt made a number of references to the wealthy in "The
Strenuous Life," describing some of them as "unfit,"
"well-to-do hucksters," and generally implying that they were weak
and cowardly. Does this constitute what
we might today call "mud-slinging," and do you suppose any members of
his audience at the Hamilton Club might have been insulted by such
comments? What purposes do you think
were served by Roosevelt's criticisms of the wealthy in America?
D. Roosevelt praised the Cubans for fighting vigorously
during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Would the Cubans fit his definition of people
who have demonstrated the "strenuous life"? What about the Filipinos, who actively
resisted the American occupation of their island homeland following that war? In other words, did Roosevelt's definition of
the "strenuous life" include all people who demonstrated valor and
courage in combat, or was there something more to that definition that excluded
more "backwards" people or people who fought against the United
E. Roosevelt invoked the past to argue about the
present. What are the pitfalls of using
the past as evidence or as a source of "lessons" to guide current
policies? What "lessons" did
Roosevelt derive from the history of America's wars against Native
Americans, or from the Civil War? How
did he apply those lessons to the domestic and foreign policy issues of his own
day? Are there different
"lessons" that one might
have learned from those historical examples?
Are those "lessons" still relevant today?
A. Theodore Roosevelt's self-exile to the West after the
deaths of his mother and his first wife helped transform him into a cowboy. His book, Ranch
Life and the Hunting Trail, chronicled his adventures. Use his book to write a research paper
identifying the traits of the cowboy, contrasting it
to modern images of the cowboy. Use the
Internet to find information about the historical and present-day lifestyles of
the American cowboy.
B. Write a paper about the Theodore Roosevelt's conception
of masculinity. Specifically, use Roosevelt's book, The
Rough Riders, to evaluate how he defined masculinity and how his conception
of masculinity influenced his views about war. Also read Harvey Mansfield's discussion of
Roosevelt in Manliness (New Haven: Yale University
C. Use the Internet to find cartoons of Roosevelt and of his
political opponents--other politicians, the corporate leaders he criticized,
etc.--both before and after Roosevelt's speech. How did cartoonists portray him and his
D. Suppose you had to write an obituary for Roosevelt. What
would you include as the most important elements of his life?
E. Search for newspapers that reported on Roosevelt's
speech at the Hamilton Club. Did the newspapers discuss how well received the speech was by
the members of the club? How did the
newspapers describe Roosevelt's speech and the
reaction to it?
F. Look through newspapers and magazines from Roosevelt's era about the effects of "nervous
illness" on middle-class workers. You
will no doubt find doctors warning of the health hazards that resulted from too
much stress, the fast pace of life, and the overload of information that people
in business encountered everyday. How do
those warnings compare to what we hear today about the dangers of a stressful
and fast-paced lifestyle? How have the
diagnoses of stress and its causes changed since Roosevelt's
day? And do we have different "cures"
today than they had in Roosevelt's era?
A. Roosevelt claims that the "strenuous life" demands
fulfill its destiny as a world power.
One manifestation of the "strenuous life" today might be the
current "War on Terror." Use
newspaper, newsmagazines, and the Congressional
Record to investigate how supporters of the War on Terror justify their
position. Are there speakers today who
make the same sort of arguments that Theodore Roosevelt made about our
obligations in the Philippines,
for example? Are there speakers today
who speak out against what Roosevelt described as the "strenuous life"?
B. Roosevelt's discussion of the need for increased birthrates
was a response to reports that fewer white women were having babies during that
era. Do you hear similar concerns
expressed by political advocates today?
What are the key controversies
surrounding population growth in America today, and does ethnicity
or race still play an important role in those arguments? Does the issue of
population growth and the racial composition of American society also play a
role in debates over immigration reform?
Investigate the immigration debates that took place in 2006-2007 and
discuss how population growth and the racial make-up of American society were
addressed during that debate.