Theodore Roosevelt still remains as one of the most popular presidents in the United States, ranking high on people’s polls or included in expert’s picks. Meanwhile, some politicians even still compare themselves to Roosevelt, while others still refer to him as their ultimate inspiration in their speeches.
That’s no surprise as “Teddy” brought valuable changes in the American domestic and foreign policies and provided a new definition for the presidency, influencing the country a hundredfold. His legacy that catapulted him to supreme fame, still felt even nearly a century after his death.
One of the distinct things TR incorporated in the political landscape is “charisma.” He had a personality that perfectly mixed courage and strength to tenderness and unselfishness. With that, he immediately built a solid connection to the public and utilized the media to mold public opinion and shape issues.
Soon, he began to use the power bestowed to him as President, but not in a way that people will detest. In fact, he immensely valued his responsibility to the public, gearing towards executive actions that will provide reform for the people while challenging ideas contradicting it.
Before Roosevelt’s term, the landscape was brimmed by influential people from both the political and business side, steering everything towards their advantage. “Machines” reigned supreme in accomplishing their goals, manipulating legislation, taking up territories, and even buying purchases. Often, courts protected “moneyed interests” and never the welfare of the common people.
Yet, Roosevelt believed that the presidency commanded power that of the level the machines had. As such, he used this to start an antitrust campaign, dissolving down “bad trusts” that hurt the public interest and abused their power. The action led to Roosevelt being dubbed as the “trust buster.” He destroyed these businesses that though gone, became instruments for instigating reforms to other corporations.
Nevertheless, Roosevelt wasn’t a “trust buster” per se, as he acknowledged big business’s role in the country’s prosperity and economic evolution. Instead, he held onto the belief that no private interest should be higher than the public interest. As such, he established the square deal program, which aimed to foster better cooperation between government, business, and labor and achieve the common good.
Three key ideas formed the square deal domestic program: natural resources conservation, corporation control, and consumer protection. All in all, creating a just, fair, and honesty society, where everyone had the opportunity to succeed. Some of the program’s notable achievements include railroad regulations, the Forest Service Act, Meat Inspection Act, Pure Food and Drug Act, and ICC’s shift to a regulatory agency.
Roosevelt then pursued other progressive reforms concerning women’s suffrage, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and laws on child labor, which later on would be the center of subsequent federals governments.
In the foreign arena, Roosevelt was famous as well, banking on the idea that American as a civilized nation should look out and promote peace and order to other unsophisticated ones. In line with this, he first reinforced the U.S. Navy to prevent other countries from targeting the United States.
Afterward, he subjugated Latin countries, such as Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, adjudicated a Franco-German dispute over Morocco, and arbitrated peace between Russia and Japan. The latter won him a Nobel Peace Prize. Yet, his most significant achievement was gaining control over the Panama Canal Zone and building the Panama Canal, providing the country substantial economic and strategic advantages.
Under Roosevelt, the presidential position renewed significance and power. Then, used it to instill positive changes for the welfare of the people, governance and business, and conservation of the environment. A feat that made a more equitable society and gave fair economic opportunities for all Americans. Moreover, he helped the United States assert its power to the world while also becoming a symbol of peace and diplomacy and balancing power worldwide. All those accomplishments propelled Theodore Roosevelt to popularity and are his legacy that will undoubtedly live on.