A Bull Moose Lost in the Woods: Or President Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt’s larger-than-life 17 foot statue is fitting for our 26th President, who once took a bullet in the chest and then proceeded to give a 90-minute speech before going to the hospital. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he exclaimed to the crowd, “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

Amazingly, this Bull Moose of a President grew up a sickly home-schooled child suffering from asthma and obsessed with natural history.  Roosevelt studied biology at Harvard University and boxed competitively.  After graduating, a physical examination revealed a serious heart problem and his doctor recommended that he get a desk job and avoid strenuous activity.  Roosevelt did the opposite.

Our 26th President (1901–1909) was more than a politician. He was a naturalist, explorer, hunter, boxer, author, soldier and law school drop-out. As a President, Roosevelt is best known for trust-busting, increasing regulation on businesses and conserving America’s land.  He was instrumental in creating five national parks, 18 national monuments and 150 National Forest.

Approaching Theodore Roosevelt’s memorial plaza feels like discovering a lost kingdom. Most of Roosevelt Island is a natural park – far removed from the tourist march of the National Mall.

Roosevelt Statue Cleaning 1967

In 1931, the island was purchased with the intention of erecting a memorial honoring Roosevelt.  Congress authorized the memorial in 1932, but didn’t appropriate funds for the project until 1960. The memorial plaza was dedicated in 1967, including the 17 foot statue of Theodore Roosevelt by Paul Manship, surrounded by fountains and large stone monoliths with quotes from speeches.

The memorial may feel bizarrely secluded at first, but this is perfect for our trust-busting, tree-hugging Bull Moose President.

Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote has always been one of my favorites. Learning his background as a sickly child who was told to get a desk job – I am more inspired than ever. I hope you will be too.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


Statute: 17-foot Centerpiece Statute of Theodore Roosevelt
Sculptor: Paul Manship (best known for The Prometheus Statue at Rockefeller Center in NYC)
Material: Bronze
Location: Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial, Washington DC
Memorial Designer: Eric Gugler
More information: Theodore Roosevelt Association


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