Carry a Big Stick
By George Grant
(1996; Cumberland House Publishing
Reviewed by Carrie Hurd
It has been with much enthusiasm this past month that my children and I have gathered to read a book about Teddy Roosevelt as part of our morning devotion time. Through George Grant’s magnificently descriptive writing and exhaustive research we all feel that we have come to personally know one of the greatest men of the past century and perhaps of all times.
Theodore Roosevelt was a Christian of remarkable sorts and an absolutely extraordinary man in all respects. We home schoolers can certainly be proud to list Theodore Roosevelt as one of our very own. He was taught at home by one of his aunts, as well as his parents, receiving a rich classical education. Before his fiftieth birthday he had served as a New York state legislator, the under-secretary of the Navy, police commissioner for the city of New York, U.S. civil service commissioner, the governor of the state of New York, the vice-president under William McKinley, a colonel in the U.S. Army, and two terms as the president of the United States.
In his spare time he had run a cattle ranch; served as a reporter and editor for several journals, newspapers, and magazines; and conducted scientific expeditions on four continents. He read at least five books every week of his life and wrote close to 60 books on an astonishing array of subjects—from history and biography to natural science and social criticism.
A man of boundless energy, he enjoyed hunting, boxing, and wrestling. He was an amateur taxidermist, botanist, ornithologist, and astronomer. He was a fun and devoted family man, his 6 children absolutely doting on him. He enjoyed a life-long romance with his wife, his admitted best friend.
He was president from 1901 to 1909, exactly 100 years ago. He, like us today, saw the sunset of one century and the dawning of another. As we embark on a new century and new times brought about by the destruction of the World Trade Center, Teddy Roosevelt has some “bully” advice and examples of character that our current president, George W. Bush, would do well to study and emulate.
Roosevelt was a man of action, applying his boundless energy to service and good deeds. He read Cotton Mather’s, To Do Good, at least a dozen times. Mather’s Puritan credo became his moral beacon light. He believed that the future of America depended on faithful men translating their good intentions into good deeds:
“We in America can attain our great destiny only by service; not by rhetoric, and above all not by insincere rhetoric, and that dreadful mental double-dealing and verbal juggling which makes promises and repudiates them, and says one thing at one time, and the directly opposite thing at another time. Our service must be the service of deeds.” (Page 112)
According to Grant, in Roosevelt’s mind, true leadership was the ability to model for the people a pattern of behavior…true leadership was a life committed to good deeds. (Page 112)
The critics of his day prophesied that he would bring our country to war because of his tough rhetoric and opinions concerning peace and readiness for war. Instead, and in spite of the broiling turmoil across the oceans, “the two Roosevelt administrations were among the most peaceful and harmonious in all of American history. And as if that were not enough, the president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating the end to the bitter Russo-Japanese War in 1905 – the first American so honored.” (Page 131)
The following Roosevelt quotes have much application to the situation our modern day America finds itself embroiled in:
“A just war is in the long run far better for a man’s soul than the most prosperous peace.” (Page 129)
“The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, and peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.” (Page 129)
“A nation is not wholly admirable unless in times of stress it will go to war for a great ideal.” (Page130)
“Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaiden of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy.” (Page131)
“I abhor unjust war. I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at the expense of the weak, whether among nations or individuals, I abhor violence and bloodshed. But it takes strength to put a stop to abhorrent things.” (Page132)
Of course, he is most remembered for the saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” as his predominant policy for peace.
Carry a Big Stick is organized topically with short chapters that makes it very inviting as a read aloud for Christian character study or just for fun and inspiration. In today's climate, where the moral compass of our nation twirls at the competing magnetic forces of pluralistic, ecumenical, and inter-faith religion, let us pray to the one and only true triune God that our national leadership would be swayed by the wisdom and fortitude that once blessed a nation and, thereby, the whole world far beyond what man has ever experienced.