Program Summary

An assassin's bullet ended the life of William McKinley in 1901, making his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, an "accidental" president at the age of 42. Young and exuberant, the living symbol of the "strenuous life," TR embodied America at the turn of the century. A reformer who used the power of the government to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, TR extended the powers of the president and the role of the U.S. in international affairs. He used the increasing influence of mass media to enlarge his own image and manipulate public opinion. Roosevelt's legacy is still evident today in such areas as government regulations, foreign policy, and the national park system. Yet, behind the vigor and optimism was a man shadowed by tragedy.

Program Chapters: The entire program has been produced for home use in DVD format. The total viewing time is 4 hours. For your convenience, we have described the program in chapters. You may want to use specific chapters to focus classroom discussion and activities.

Part One 

Chapter 1 -- Introduction

David McCullough introduces the program -- overview of TR's life and personality

Chapter 2 -- The Long Campaign 

TR's early childhood struggle with asthma and his efforts to overcome illness and physical weakness -- his strong relationship with his father -- his father's influence on his life -- TR's love of natural history -- the development of his active pursuit of the "strenuous life" -- the conclusion of his childhood and adolescence -- college years at Harvard

Chapter 3 -- Politics and Tragedy

courtship of Alice Lee and their marriage -- development of TR's political career as an assemblyman in New York -- the birth of his first child, daughter Alice -- the deaths of both his wife and mother --  TR's subsequent adventures in the Badlands of North Dakota seeking relief from his grief 

Chapter 4 -- Civil and Military Service 

TR's return from North Dakota; his courtship and life with second wife Edith Carow -- Return to politics and appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy -- leadership of the famous Rough Riders regiment during the Spanish-American War -- TR's growing image as a political "star"

Part Two 

Chapter 5 -- The Bully Pulpit

Elected Governor of New York -- angers the Republican party bosses -- nominated for Vice President under McKinley to remove him from the New York political scene -- TR's "accidental" presidency after McKinley's assassination in 1901 -- TR's domestic policies -- the industrialization of America -- J. P. Morgan -- TR's trust-busting activities -- his intervention in the coal miners' strike -- the birth of the Square Deal -- TR's savvy use of the media -- creation of the Teddy bear -- TR's expansion of the powers of the presidency

Chapter 6 -- The Panama Canal

TR's foreign policy: growth of the navy to support expansionist policies -- "Speak softly and carry a big stick" philosophy; the Panama Canal; the development of the "imperial presidency" -- 

Chapter 7 -- First Family and Reelection 

Life in the White House -- the glamour of TR's presidential style -- the renovation of the White House -- the Roosevelt children -- TR wins by an unprecedented landslide -- TR blunders by telling a reporter he won't run for a third term, weakening his presidential power

Tape 2

Chapter 1 -- Introduction

David McCullough introduces the second half of the program -- TR's joy in his family and in the presidency -- his struggle to hold on to the "child within"

Chapter 2 -- Conservation 

TR as a reformer president -- efforts in industry, commerce, and conservation -- struggles with Congress over the power of the presidency -- expansion of executive power -- rise of the "muckrakers" -- creation of national parks and other federally protected lands

Chapter 3 -- Peace and Marriage

Continued national fascination with the Roosevelt family -- portrait of youngest child, Quentin, his parents' favorite -- TR's involvement in Asia -- secret deal to turn Korea over to Japan -- TR negotiates to end the Russo-Japanese War -- wins the Nobel Prize for Peace -- TR's manipulation of the media to enhance his image and increase his popularity -- extensive press coverage of his daughter Alice's wedding

Chapter 4 -- Ending the Presidency

TR's response to the Panic of 1907 -- unsuccessful reform initiatives -- "lame duck" status -- TR's choice of William Taft as his successor -- Recap of TR's accomplishments as president -- the Taft inauguration

Part Three

Chapter 5 -- Black Care 

TR once again seeks solace in the wilderness, on a safari to Africa -- triumphant tour of Europe -- returns to the U.S. -- TR decides to try and regain the presidency -- friendship with Taft deteriorates -- TR fails to receive the 1912 Republican nomination

Chapter 6 -- Elections and Exploration

leads the new Progressive Party -- loses to Woodrow Wilson -- TR retreats again to the wilderness on a hazardous exploration of the River of Doubt in Brazil, which nearly kills him -- river is later named "Theodoro" in his honor

Chapter 7 -- World War I 

TR disagrees with Wilson's policy of isolationism, advocates "preparedness" -- TR volunteers (but is not permitted) to fight in World War I -- works vigorously despite poor health to support the war effort

Chapter 8 -- Death of a Lion  

Tragedy strikes once again when Quentin is killed in the war -- Deeply affected by Quentin's death, TR dies at age 60 in 1919

To find more film resources and classroom activities, visit the Teacher's Guide for TR.

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