Theodore Roosevelt

By Schofield, William H. | Scandinavian Review, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview

Theodore Roosevelt


Schofield, William H., Scandinavian Review


With fullness of feeling The American-Scandinavian Foundation joins all true American citizens in grief for the death of their twenty-ninth president-Theodore Roosevelt. The center of a heroic family's love, a fount of fair friendship among comrades, a source of lofty inspiration to idealistic youth, a leader of the people in their doubting struggle for social justice, a successful quickener of the nation's conscience, a man of honest aim, a man of undaunted courage, a man of vast accomplishment, a zealous patriot, who heightened respect for America throughout the world-- Theodore Roosevelt is gone.

In losing Theodore Roosevelt the Foundation has lost not only a friend but a prop. He believed in our work and eagerly encouraged us to pursue it, for he had deep sympathy with the Scandinavian races and a clear vision of the wisdom of knitting unbreakable bonds between them and the people of his own beloved land, which so many from the North have honored in their adoption.

We are unable at this time to display adequately the many-faceted crystal of Theodore Roosevelt's great personality. Later we shall not fail to emphasize his far-sighted views on complete Americanization as vitally important for the work the Foundation has specially set itself to do. We are now content to print a hitherto unpublished letter from him which indicates his acute perception of the difficult situation in which Scandinavians were placed during the Great War and suggests an enlightened way of handling their problem.

When, in the autumn of 1917, as President of the Foundation, I invited Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, and other Commissioners of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, to a dinner and conference at the Harvard Club, New York, I urged Mr. Roosevelt, an Associate of the Foundation, to be present. He replied with regret that he could not accept the invitation, but added that he should be glad to see all the Commissioners if they cared to come informally and unofficially to Oyster Bay. They accepted the offer eagerly and, accompanied by Dr. Leach and myself, on the afternoon of Sunday, November 4, spent two delightful hours in friendly conversation in his library, during part of which he and Dr. Nansen, who had not met before, discussed their respective views of the River of Doubt, the North Pole, and other regions specially interesting to explorers. Finally, Mr. Roosevelt was asked to tell us what he thought of the immediate relations of America and Scandinavia, the matter uppermost in the minds of all his guests. Quick in response, evincing profound knowledge of the subject and sensitive understanding of the Scandinavian temperament, he explained his attitude frankly and so sympathetically that the hearts of his hearers filled with emotion. We of the Foundation then begged him to write down something of what he had just said. He protested that he was only a private citizen and that he thought it imprudent even to appear to meddle in the negotiations, but at last declared that if we really thought his opinions would have any value in helping to rivet the friendship of Americans and Scandinavians, he was willing to do as we desired. A few days later he handed to the Secretary the following statement in his own handwriting, with instructions to use it if we were confident that it would further the cause. In that case we were to have the letter typewritten and sent to him for his signature. It seems to us wise to publish it now. The war is over and we see somewhat more clearly. But Theodore Roosevelt can sign no more letters.

In his letter Theodore Roosevelt mentions Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, first among small nations, which, he declared, "are probably on the whole in more fundamental agreement with us socially, politically, and in the deeper relations of life, than any of the large continental powers.

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