Sunday, October 8

An A-1 Time in Life

At a campaign stop in Milwaukee on this day in 1912, a deranged, out-of-work bartender emerged from a crowd and shot Theodore Roosevelt in the chest at point-blank range. Staggered by the impact of the bullet and the shock of the injury, the great man nevertheless righted himself. As the crowd converged on the man, the wounded former president cried, "Stand back! Don't hurt the man! Bring him to me!" After examining his would-be assassin with a dismissive glare, he told his aides to get him to the rally.

"This may be the last speech I deliver," he admitted. Seeing that he was bleeding heavily, several doctors in Roosevelt's party wanted to rush him to the hospital at once, but he waved them aside. "You just stay where you are," he ordered. "I am going to make this speech and you might as well compose yourselves." When they persisted, he said, "Get an ambulance or a carriage or anything you like at ten o'clock and I'll go to the hospital, but I won't go until I've finished my speech." He then demanded that his driver proceed to the auditorium.

The crowd was told what had happened. But as Roosevelt appeared on the platform, the familiar figure smiled and waved weakly to the awestruck crowd. "It is true," he whispered in a hoarse voice, "I have just been shot. But it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." Now beginning to gain his composure, he said, "Friends, I should ask you to be as quiet as possible. And please excuse me from making a long speech. I'll do the best I can." He then took his manuscript from his jacket; it had been pierced through by the bullet and was soaked with blood. "It is nothing,” he said as the people gasped. "I am not hurt badly. I have a message to deliver and will deliver it as long as there is life in my body." The audience became deathly still as he went on to say, "I have had an A-1 time in life and I am having it now."

He always had the ability to cast an intoxicating spell over crowds. Even now, his physical presence was dominating. Though he was bleeding profusely, he went on to speak for an hour and a half. By the end he had almost completely regained his typical stump fervor--rousing the crowd to several extended ovations. When at last he allowed his concerned party to take him to the hospital, the audience reached a near frenzy chanting "Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!"

At the hospital he joked and talked politics with his attendants. But his condition was hardly a joking matter. The surgeons found that the bullet had fractured his fourth rib and lodged close to his right lung. "It is largely due to the fact that he is a physical marvel that he was not mortally wounded," observed one of them later. "He is one of the most powerful men I have ever seen on an operating table."

Nevertheless, he was no longer a young buck at the age of fifty-four. He was required, against his quite considerable will, to sit out the remainder of the campaign. Later, his biographers would view the incident as quintessential Roosevelt: imposing the sheer force of his will upon a seemingly impossible circumstance, and yet prevailing.


Lawrence Underwood said...

An absolutely amazing Christian man. Oh, God, please give us modern day 'Teddy' to lead this nation!

Diane V. said...

A prevailing man, indeed! Today a "cowardice" exists among too many and the little ditty, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" has crumbled. Teddy can prevail through a gunshot wound, while many a man and woman today are bleeding to death over the blow of mere words. Where oh where has our spine gone?

Dale Tedder said...

I have been a huge fan of Teddy ever since I heard your modernity lectures. Thanks for writing this piece.

Diane V. said...

Without giving the impression that "words" aren't weighty or important, they most certainly are. We must take great care with them. But the bullets of verbal critism will always come to great and godly leaders. To prevail over those without caving in to the status quo or compromise is a great need of our most "sensitive" society.

Abe said...

Great site! Yes Teddy was one of the greats.

Here are some "Christian" commentators that are making a splash. See esp. their articles on Islamo-fascism, the elections and, the Bill of Rights. This type of shallow thinking must be dealt with if people like them are not to siphon off our base for the coming election.

Abe said...

The html tag did not stick. Here is the address:

Richard in Austin said...

Dr. Grant:

Your book "Carry a Big Stick" was tremendous! I'm curious to know how your book "The Courage and Character of Theodore Roosevelt" differs from your first book.

Thank you for your devotion to maintaining a Christian perspective on our history!!!

Richard Welch
Austin, Texas

p.s. my wife and I ate at the Salt Lick last night...for some reason, we always think of you when we go there...!

gileskirk said...

Richard: I'm jealous about the Salt Lick! As far as the two TR books--they are the same text. For the paperback edition, they decided to change the title and I added a TR essay as an appendix, but those are the only differences.

Rob Scott said...

Abe, can you explain your arguments against the commentators that you mentioned? Contrary to your "shallow thinking" accusation, they seem to have thought through the issues quite thoroughly.