Theodore Roosevelt Develops Himself

     After reading Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography in high school, he became my favorite president.  I own over 50 books on TR in my personal library.  One of Roosevelt’s achievements grabbed my attention much more than his political and writing accomplishments.  Roosevelt started out as a very sickly child but through the application of exercise and sport built himself into a physical specimen.


TR circa 1900 – Courtesy of the Cornell University Collection

     The story is that TR showed great potential in science although he would eventually choose writing and politics as his career.  Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. told TR that he had great mental ability but he would never go as far as he could unless he built himself up physically.

     The teenage Roosevelt started training with gymnastics, weights and boxing.  By the time he left for Harvard, Theodore Roosevelt was not the robust man he would become in his thirties but he was much improved physically.

     Theodore Roosevelt would be the lightweight runner up in boxing at Harvard.  He  continued to box and wrestle up to the time he entered the White House.

     After losing the sight in his left eye due to boxing with his twenty year-old Naval aide, TR took up Judo with Professor Yamashita.  President Roosevelt would earn a brown belt from Yamashita.

     What is more fascinating about Roosevelt’s prowess is that after college his doctor told him to give up physical exercise.  His doctor believed that Roosevelt had some health defects that could lead to an early death.

     The doctor told Roosevelt to lead a life of ease and he might live to be a senior citizen.  Roosevelt told him that he would rather die young.  The life described by the doctor was not one Roosevelt was interested in living.  Ignoring his doctor’s advice, TR would ranch in the Dakotas, lead the charge up Kettle and San Juan Hills, take part in a safari and map the Rio Teodoro in the Amazon.


Theodore Roosevelt’s Effect on the Presidential Election of 1912 in paperback and e-book on Amazon

     Theodore Roosevelt passed away in January 1919 at 60 years of age having lived a full and exemplary life.  Roosevelt’s dedication to physical culture helped make it possible.

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