Monday, February 19, 2007

Bully and Not So Bully

In which we celebrate President's Day... while lamenting human folly

It's a rainy President's Day here in the San Fernando Valley, and I have just run up the colors, as is my wont on such occasions. We used to celebrate Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays on different three-day weekends a month or so apart. To make room for Martin Luther King's birthday -- which some people get to take off but others do not, in very spotty fashion -- the two were consolidated into one. So while I celebrate Washington and Lincoln, I figure that, since it's President's Day, I'm free to celebrate other s as well. I choose Theodore Roosevelt. He is my favorite.


  • Overcame crippling childhood illness through sheer dint of will

  • Published his first book, The Naval War of 1812, at age 24 (one among dozens he would author throughout his too-brief life)

  • Was elected to the New York State Assembly, also at age 24

  • Joined the National Guard the same year

  • Was promoted to captain one year later

  • Established two cattle ranches near Medora, Dakota Territory

  • Served as police commissioner for the city of New York

  • Was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President William McKinley at 41

  • Served with First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, the "Rough Riders," during the Spanish-American War. He was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel, but was later promoted to Colonel of the regiment before the Battle of San Juan Heights. Charge!

  • Was Elected Governor of New York State in 1898

  • Was elected Vice President in 1901

  • Became 26th President of the United States after President McKinsley was shot and killed by a crazed anarchist later that year. He remains the youngest man ever to become president.

  • Fought the trusts and monopolies during his presidency, encouraged fair business practices, and established many National Parks and National Monuments

  • Invented the idea of "progressivism"

  • Built the Panama Canal

  • Was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for ending the Russo-Japanese War

  • Survived an assassination attempt, and, with a bullet in his chest, went on to make a speech in Milwaukee

  • Went on a wild adventure into the Amazon jungle to explore and survey the River of Doubt after his presidency, at age 56. He and his compatriots barely made it out alive

But how would Teddy think about what's going down at his namesake high school here in Los Angeles, where a group of parents and teachers has conspired to throw out the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), I wonder? Not much, I would imagine.

It's a sad state we have come to when serving in the military is looked on with such disdain. Regardless of how one may feel about the current mess-o-potamia in Iraq, I think it's flat out wrong to strip young people of the opportunity to follow a perfectly respectable career path. Listen, as long as there's war -- and there will be war for the foreseeable future, sadly -- we will need warriors. Yes, your son or daughter might get killed or wounded in a foreign land, or be compelled by his or her commitment to do things you may consider distasteful. But then again he or she may return with a lifetime of experience and a rack of medals across the chest. That is the world in which we live. We should be proud of our children who comport themselves with honor and aplomb, regardless of what career they choose. And we certainly should not deny them opportunities on shallow ideological grounds especially, ones in which they have the chance to learn about duty, responsibility and honor.

Image by Rick Kersten. You should visit his website and buy his work.


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