OCTOBER 25, 1958
NEW YORK—We are celebrating this month the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's birth. No one in public life ever had any meaning to me before I became old enough to be conscious of this uncle of mine as a public character.
I grew up in my grandmother's house where politics was almost never mentioned and it was only when I began to read the newspapers myself that I became conscious of the first cartoons of Theodore Roosevelt as New York City police commissioner with very prominent front teeth!
Uncle Teddy was always kind to my brother and me because we were the children of his only brother who had died. We stayed with him at times in Oyster Bay and later, when he became President, even once or twice in Washington. He was always a fascinating, colorful personality, but I am afraid when I was young I was occasionally more worried by his energy and the physical activities he expected of us all than I was impressed by his mental achievements.
Now I realize how varied were his intellectual interests, how widely read he was and how much he developed the various sides of his nature so that life could be enjoyed in many different ways.
He had a tremendous influence over the young men who were starting out in life when he was already active in politics. He preached the responsibility of each and every citizen of our country for the government of our country. He did not expect that all of us would go into politics as a career, but I think few young people came in contact with him without being given the feeling that they must do something for the community in which they lived.
He was a wonderful father, as those who have read his letters to his children will realize. He was a historian, he was a sportsman, a politician and a statesman.
It is hard for most of us to realize that as a boy he suffered cruelly from asthma, and it was only his indomitable will that built the strong physique which could withstand the many physical tests he imposed upon himself throughout life. His friends were often put to these physical tests as well. And I am afraid that having built his own strength by force of will he looked upon anyone who could not match him as somehow lacking in some traits of character which he considered essential to being a really valuable human being.
He was a loving and loyal friend and his courage was not only physical courage but had a certain moral and spiritual quality. You might not agree with his point of view, but you knew that he expressed his own convictions and that he himself would live up to the same standards he set for others.
He had a feeling for social justice which was ahead of his time and, because of this, he earned from some people a familiar criticism that I have heard many times since—namely, those whose interests he interfered with said he was a "traitor to his class." He was really only a pioneer, pointing the way that this country had to follow if it were going to be true to the ideals on which it was founded.
As time goes by, great characters stand out more clearly from the pages of history, and I think it is safe to say that people are going to read the books that now exist and that will in the future be written about Theodore Roosevelt with greater and greater interest. They will feel that he was one of the men who influenced the thinking of our country and moved us forward along the lines of social justice and humanitarian interests, which are today the areas that furnish us with the only alternative to communism.