The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad

By Walter Lafeber | Go to book overview

8
The Search for Opportunity:
Rough Riders and Dollar Diplomats
(1901-1913)

THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND TWENTIETH‐
CENTURY U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

William McKinley was the first twentieth-century president, but no chief executive has better caught, exemplified, and gloried in the spirit of modern America than Theodore Roosevelt. As Time magazine wrote in 1979, "He was America." At the 1984 Republican convention in Dallas, a young follower of Ronald Reagan explained:

People sometimes ask me who was the last great President. Some say Kennedy. I don't think so.... I say Teddy Roosevelt. He was a fighter, he was stubborn. He was almost a salesman for America. America was the greatest country in the world and he was willing to go to any lengths to prove it. And he had the qualities I was brought up on—that you do the best you can, whatever it is.... He loved life. And he loved America. 1

No president has been more colorful. "Cowboy, crime-fighter, soldier, and explorer ... ," David Healy writes, "he fulfilled as an adult the ambitions of every small boy." 2 Roosevelt, however, was also as complex as the nation he led. Raised in New York City by private tutors,

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