Theodore Roosevelt was certainly an icon of this century ¬ a century often referred to as the "American Century." Roosevelt's life comes alive in a special exhibit at the Hillwood Commons Art Gallery located on the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. Organized by the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in cooperation with the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, the display will continue through Nov. 14. The exhibit had previously been on display at the National Portrait Gallery and New York City's Federal Hall National Memorial.
Teddy Roosevelt is to many Long Islanders a hometown hero. Becoming president in September, 1900 after the assassination of President McKinley, Roosevelt moved the United States from isolation on to the world stage. He knew no fear. Theodore Roosevelt has so many "firsts" that it would take a separate column just to list them. Some of his most interesting first time events include the first president to fly in an airplane. He was first to visit a foreign country as a sitting president and to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Interestingly, the exhibit covers many aspects of TR's life. From his North Dakota days, Roosevelt's chaps, Winchester rifle, branding iron and hunting knife are all displayed together. The knife is rarely seen in public and the other items are owned by different individuals and institutions. Another fascinating item is the Lincoln ring. Containing hairs of Abraham Lincoln, it was given to TR by John Hay, Lincoln's secretary and later Roosevelt's secretary of state. A special section of the exhibit covers Sagamore Hill. There are also a few Teddy Bears on display, along with portraits of Roosevelt at different stages of his life.
Roosevelt was the first modern president. He made full use of the White House "pulpit." Helping the Colombian revolutionaries, he had a major role in creating the country of Panama. Then, he rapidly negotiated a treaty with the new nation to create the Panama Canal. When criticized on Capitol Hill, he cheerfully and defiantly declared that he had "seized" the Canal and the Congress could debate it.
One of the most poignant parts of the exhibit was an "X" on his personal desk calendar ¬ the day on which both his mother and wife had died. Teddy Roosevelt was bigger than life during his presidency and for many years afterwards. The exhibit helps to bring his life back to Long Island for another look.
If you would like to learn more about Teddy Roosevelt, you can write to The Friends of Sagamore Hill at 20 Sagamore Hill Road, Oyster Bay, NY 11771 or www.theodoreroosevelt.org. And if you have not yet visited TR's home at Sagamore Hill, I would urge you to do so.