Theodore Roosevelt’s last words in his final moments were to his valet, “Turn out the light.” He died sometime during the night of pulmonary embolism. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, author, explorer, and naturalist, who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901-1908. During his years in office he greatly expanded the power of the presidency. He had many accomplishments and served the nation in many capacities; President of N.Y.C. Board of Police Commissioners, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 33rd Governor of New York, 25th Vice President of the U.S., and the 26th President of the U.S.
Roosevelt was born a sickly child, and was home schooled as a result of a debilitating asthma. As a child he was called, “Teedie” to distinguish him from his father, Theodore Sr. It wasn’t until his college days that he was called “Teddy” by his college friends at Harvard University. His father worked for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to help improve the conditions of Union soldiers and their families.
American presidents are influenced by all sorts of early experiences, but rarely are they captured in a photograph firsthand. History is full of coincidences, and the Civil War is no exception. In the 1950, Stefan Lorant, was researching a book on Abraham Lincoln when he came across an image of the President’s funeral procession as it moved down Broadway in New York City. The photo was dated April 25, 1865. The coincidence might have ended there, but upon a closer look, peering from a second floor window were two young boys. The house was the property of Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of future President Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliot. Lorant wanted to verify his theory that Teddy and Elliot were the boys in the window. When he had the rare opportunity to confirm his finding; he spoke with Teddy’s widowed wife, Edith Roosevelt. Edith recollected, “…as I looked down from the window and saw the black draping, I became frightened and started to cry. Theodore and Elliot were both there. ..” An early camera caught a future president watching a dead one
As “Teedie” watched the remains of the president paraded past silent crowds and beating drums; he may have felt a kindle of inspiration and kinship with Lincoln’s greatness. His unfettered feelings were built from a mutual kinship; both had a fire of deep seeded ambition complemented with an undying resolution to strive for greatness. On that sobered day, Lincoln’s death lit a fire under that seven year old lad, that reflected Roosevelt’s desire to emulate Lincoln.
For Roosevelt’s future adult life, he desired to serve his country. His personal flame of inspiration lit a path to a better life for many Americans. At the time of his death, his last request turned out the light; although by contrast the writings about Lincoln and Roosevelt have become a beacon of light to all. Their past lives have continued to be an example for all Americans to follow.
He along with the other faces of Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson look out from Mount Rushmore, as they remain as a source patriotism for us all. In a bit of irony, the stone chiseled face of Roosevelt stares into the eyes of his childhood hero.