Teddy Roosevelt: Rough Riding Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

Posted on Friday, 9th December 2011 @ 10:26 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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Saturday marks the anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1906.  President Roosevelt was the first American to be awarded this prestigious honor just 5 years after it was established. The award was the result of his leadership in the negotiations that resulted in the Treaty of Portsmouth, effectively ending the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.  To comply, both Japan and Russia would agree to evacuate Manchuria and return its sovereignty to China.

The conflict resulted from opposing imperialist aggression by both the Russian and Japanese Empires over Manchuria and Korea.  The number of Japanese mortalities was estimated to be 47,000 and those of the Russian army from 40,000 to 70,000 men. The total number of army dead was 130,000 with China suffering 20,000 civilian deaths.

The Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Nobel, Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and (ironically) armaments manufacturer. On the 27th of November, 1895 Nobel signed his last will and testament, stipulating that the largest share of his fortune be dedicated to a series of distinctive prizes. A portion of that will would be dedicated to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.  This distinct honor became known as the Nobel Peace Prize.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United State(1901–1909).  He was noted for his broad range of interests and achievements, his leadership in the burgeoning Progressive Movement, and his robust “cowboy” persona. Because of his outstanding service to our nation, his countenance was carved into Mount Rushmore and dedicated in 1939.

He was also a leader of the Republican Party after a split with William Taft about policy and platform.  This leads me to my main point.

As a leader among the progressives, Roosevelt helped to draft a social agenda for the newly formed Progressive Party. The agenda called for a national health service, a “social insurance” to provide a safety net for the elderly, unemployed and disabled; limited court ordered injunctions in the event of a strike; a legally mandated minimum wage for women; an eight hour work day; a federal securities commission; workers’ compensation; an inheritance tax; and a Constitutional amendment providing for a federal income tax.

One can’t help but fast forward to imagine the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the current Republican candidates for President of the United States.

How about Michele Bachmann?  On November 20 she urged the Pentagon to develop a war plan “immediately” that would evaluate ways to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

And then there’s Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.   While on the campaign trail Santorum spoke to thousands of pro-life activists at the Vales Voter Summit and called for a joint American-Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Rick Perry claims he would send U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug wars. Perry, who can’t seem to remember small details like which federal cabinet departments he would eliminate does remember to recommend predator drones for an overly porous border. More recently, his new anti gay Iowa commercial is creating a major divide in both his campaign staff and among gay Republican community.  Rick Perry is not making a name for himself as a peacemaker.

Last month, Newt Gingrich, the current Republican frontrunner, claimed “We could break Iran in a year” and that the rogue country will be “easily subdued”.  His war on poor children is equally troubling, saying that child labor laws are “truly stupid,” implying that poor children should be put to work as janitors in their schools to mop the floors and clean the bathrooms. He claims that poor children don’t understand work unless they’re doing something illegal.  He then said that unionized janitors in schools should be replaced by these school children.

Gingrich is a recent convert to Catholicism.  He explains his conversion by saying that, “The depth of faith and history contained in the life of the Catholic Church were increasingly apparent to me,” and that, “Slowly, over a decade, the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass became more and more obvious to me.”  Apparently after seeing the light, this new self-proclaimed acolyte had a few compassionate words for Occupy Wall Street protesters.  During a November forum in Iowa he snarled out into space, “Go get a job, right after you take a bath”.   The rightwing loves to evoke straw men and then condemn the imagined sins of alleged lepers.

Gingrich and Bachmann have both signed on to the building of a double fence along the entire Mexican border.   Former pizza man/presidential candidate Herman Cain would plug the fence into a nearby wall socket to give it some juice.

These “Christians” are apparently too busy fighting the war on Christmas to know Isaiah’s words:

Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help
and who rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel
or consult the Lord!

Compassion is no longer part of the conservative lexicon and certainly not valued by today’s Republican Party.   This party resembles nothing like the one of Republican President Teddy Roosevelt’s with its reverence for the environment and universal social justice.  His promotion for and developing of social progressivism held that government can and should adjust as a diverse society evolves. That progressivism still holds that the Constitution is a living document, adaptable to an evolving democratic republic.   Roosevelt knew that the words “democratic” and “republic” were both part of the same organic nation that had been formed a century and a half earlier.

It’s fitting that on December 6th, President Obama invoked a “New Nationalism” in Osawatomie, Kansas, recalling the Progressive agenda outlined by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910 at the same location.  This nationalism is not one based on an imperialist lust for power and double border fences to “protect” our national interests but one that celebrates a nationalism of all people.

President Obama himself won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in strengthening the international diplomacy and cooperation among people worldwide, his promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and for his outreach to the Muslim world after a decade of the War on Terror often became perverted as a war on Islam.

Roosevelt’s fight for worldwide peace, social justice, and respect for the environment provide us with an enlightening point of reference for current Republicans.   Roosevelt was a great American, tough, courageous, and yes, peace loving.  He set the bar high, but not too high for Republicans to achieve again.







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