American Boys' Life of Theodore Roosevelt/Chapter 30
Personal Characteristics of Theodore Roosevelt—The President's Family—Life at the White House—Our Country and its Future
In reading over the foregoing pages the question may occur to some of my young readers, How is it possible for President Roosevelt to accomplish so much and still have time in which to occasionally enjoy himself by travelling or by going on a hunting tour?
The answer is a very simple one. Mr. Roosevelt works systematically, as do all who want their labor to amount to something. Years ago, when he was physically weak, he determined to make himself strong. He persisted in vigorous exercise, especially in the open air, and in the end attained a bodily health which any ordinary man may well envy.
The President does each day's work as it comes before him. He does not borrow trouble or cross a bridge before he comes to it. Whatever there is to do he does to the very best of his ability, and he allows future complications to take care of themselves. If a mistake is made, he does not worry continually over it, but keeps it in mind, so that a like mistake shall not occur again. When once his hand is on the plough, he does not believe in turning back. He has unlimited faith in the future of our glorious country, and a like faith in the honor and courage of his fellow-citizens.
Any man to be an intelligent worker cannot be dissipated, and the President is a good illustration of this. He has a good appetite, but eats moderately, and does not depend upon stimulants or tobacco to "brace him up " when the work is extra heavy. He goes out nearly every day for a walk, a ride on horseback, or a drive with some members of his family, and as a result of this, when night comes, sleeps soundly and arises the next morning as bright and fresh as ever.
This is the first time that a President with a large family has occupied the White House. Other Presidents have had a few children, but Mr. Roosevelt took possession with six, a hearty, romping crowd, the younger members of which thought it great fun to explore the executive mansion when first they moved in. The President loves his children dearly, and is not above "playing bear" with the little ones when time permits and they want some fun.
Of Mrs. Roosevelt it can truthfully be said that she makes a splendid "first lady in the land." She takes a great interest in all social functions, and an equal interest in what is best for her boys and girls and their friends. She is very charitable, and each year contributes liberally to hundreds of bazaars and fairs held throughout our country.
The oldest child of the President is Miss Alice Lee Roosevelt, named after her mother, the first wife of the Chief Magistrate. Although but a step-daughter to the present Mrs. Roosevelt, the two are as intimate and loving as if of the same flesh and blood. Miss Roosevelt has already made her debut in Washington society, and assisted at several gatherings at the White House.
All of the other children were born after Mr. Roosevelt's second marriage. His oldest son is Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., commonly called by his chums, Teddy, Jr. He is a lad of sixteen, bright and clever, and has been attending a college preparatory school at Groton, Massachusetts, as already mentioned. He loves outdoor games, and is said to possess many tastes in common with his father.
The other members of the family are, Kermit, fourteen, Ethel Carew, twelve, Archibald Bullock, nine, and a lively little boy named Quentin, who is six.
Some time ago a distinguished member of the English Educational Commission visited this country and made an inspection of our school system. When asked what had impressed him most deeply, he answered:—
"The children of the President of the United States sitting side by side with the children of your workingmen in the public schools."
This simple little speech speaks volumes for the good, hard common sense of our President. He believes thoroughly in our public institutions, and knows the real value of sending out his boys to fight their own battles in the world at large. He does not believe in pampering children, but in making them self-reliant. All love to go out with him, and when at Oyster Bay he frequently takes the boys and their cousins for a day's tramp through the woods or along the beach, or else for a good hard row on the bay. The President prefers rowing to sailing, and frequently rows for several miles at a stretch. His enjoyment of bathing is as great as ever, and his boys love to go into the water with him.
Christmas time at the White House is just as full of joy there as it is anywhere. The younger children hang up their stockings, and scream with delight over every new toy received. For some days previous to Christmas one of the rooms is turned into a storeroom, and to this only Mrs. Roosevelt and one of the maids hold the key. Presents come in from everywhere, including many for the President, for his friends far and near insist upon remembering him. These presents are arranged on a large oval table near one of the broad wmdows, and on Christmas morning the distribution begins.
The President, in his trips to the woods, has seen the great harm done by cutting down promising evergreens, so he does not believe very much in having a Christmas tree. But a year ago a great surprise awaited him.
"I'm going to fix up a tree," said little Archie, and managed to smuggle a small evergreen into the house and place it in a large closet that was not being used. Here he and his younger brother Quentin worked for several days in arranging the tree just to suit them. On Christmas morning, after the presents were given out, both asked their father to come to where the closet was located.
"What is up now?" asked Mr. Roosevelt, curiously.
"Come and see!" they shouted. And he went, followed by all the others of the family. Then the closet door was thrown open, and there stood the tree, blazing with lights. It was certainly a great surprise, and Mr. Roosevelt enjoyed it as much as anybody.The children of Washington, and especially those whose fathers occupy public positions, always look forward with
President Roosevelt and His Family.
anticipations of great pleasure to the children's parties given by Mrs. Roosevelt, and these parties are of equal interest to those living at the mansion.
Such a party was given during the last holidays, and was attended by several hundred children, all of whom, of course, came arrayed in their best. They were received by Mrs. Roosevelt, who had a hand-shake and a kind word for each, and then some of the Cabinet ladies, who were assisting, gave to each visitor a button, set in ribbon and tinsel and inscribed "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."
The big main dining-room of the White House had been prepared for the occasion. There was a Christmas tree at one side of the room, and the table was filled with fruit, cake, and candy. The President came in and helped to pass the ice-cream and cake, and Theodore, Jr. and some of the others passed the candy and other good things.
After this the visitors were asked to go to the East Room and dance. The Marine Band furnished the music, and while the children were dancing, the President came in to look at them. The entertainment lasted until the end of the afternoon, and when the visitors departed, President Roosevelt was at the door to shake hands and bid them good-by.
And here let us bid good-by ourselves, wishing Theodore Roosevelt and his family well. What the future holds in store for our President no man can tell. That he richly deserves the honors that have come to him, is beyond question. He has done his best to place and keep our United States in the front rank of the nations of the world. Under him, as under President McKinley, progress has been remarkably rapid. In the uttermost parts of the world our Flag is respected as it was never respected before. Perhaps some few mistakes have been made, but on the whole our advancement has been justified, and is eminently satisfactory. The future is large with possibilities, and it remains for the generation I am addressing to rise up and embrace those opportunities and make the most of them.