Question by HaitianPrincess/mrsvickervan: Why was Theodore Roosevelt an important president and what was the progressive movement?
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Answer by Andrew T
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (IPA: /ˈroʊzəvɛlt/; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), also known as T.R., and to the public (but never to friends and intimates) as Teddy, was the twenty-sixth President of the United States, and a leader of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Movement. He became President of the United States at the age of 42. He served in many roles including Governor of New York, historian, naturalist, explorer, author, and soldier. Roosevelt is most famous for his personality: his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his “cowboy” persona. His last name, often mispronounced in his day before he and his relatives made it famous, is, per Roosevelt, “pronounced as if it were spelled ‘Rosavelt’, in three syllables, the first syllable as if it was ‘Rose.'” As Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, he prepared for and advocated war with Spain in 1898. He organized and helped command the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, the Rough Riders, during the Spanish-American War. Returning to New York as a war hero, he was elected Republican governor in 1899. He was a professional historian, a lawyer, a naturalist and explorer of the Amazon Basin; his 35 books include works on outdoor life, natural history, the American frontier, political history, naval history, and his autobiography.
In 1901, as Vice President, the 42 year-old Roosevelt succeeded President William McKinley after McKinley’s assassination. He is the youngest person to become President (John F. Kennedy is the youngest elected President). Roosevelt was a Progressive reformer who sought to move the dominant Republican Party into the Progressive camp. He distrusted wealthy businessmen and dissolved forty monopolistic corporations as a “trust buster”. He was clear, however, to show he did not disagree with trusts and capitalism in principle but was only against corrupt, illegal practices. His “Square Deal” promised a fair shake for both the average citizen (through regulation of railroad rates and pure food and drugs) and the businessmen. As an outdoorsman, he promoted the conservation movement, emphasizing efficient use of natural resources. After 1906 he attacked big business and suggested the courts were biased against labor unions. In 1910, he broke with his friend and anointed successor William Howard Taft, but lost the Republican nomination to Taft and ran in the 1912 election on his own one-time Bull Moose ticket. Roosevelt beat Taft in the popular vote and pulled so many Progressives out of the Republican Party that Democrat Woodrow Wilson won in 1912, and the conservative faction took control of the Republican Party for the next two decades.
Roosevelt negotiated for the U.S. to take control of the Panama Canal and its construction in 1904; he felt the Canal’s completion was his most important and historically significant international achievement. He was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize, winning its Peace Prize in 1906, for negotiating the peace in the Russo-Japanese War.
Historian Thomas Bailey, who disagreed with Roosevelt’s policies, nevertheless concluded, “Roosevelt was a great personality, a great activist, a great preacher of the moralities, a great controversialist, a great showman. He dominated his era as he dominated conversations….the masses loved him; he proved to be a great popular idol and a great vote getter.” His image stands alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Surveys of scholars have consistently ranked him from third to seventh on the list of greatest American presidents.
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