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tv   Theodore Roosevelt and His Children  CSPAN  October 1, 2016 7:15pm-8:01pm EDT

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conclusion, "our nation is moving towards two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal." since then there have been great gains for african-americans in many areas of american life, including sports, entertainment, business, politics. despite these gains racial segregation has remained largely in place. >> watch the entire lecture tonight at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern time here on american history tv. tv, on american history eric burns talks about his book "the golden lad: the haunting story of quentin and theodore roosevelt.." he explores the relationships the roosevelt had with his children and specifically with his youngest son, quentin, it was shot down and killed by enemy german pilots during world war i.
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the new york historical society and the bryant park reading room cohosted this 45 minute event. >> it is my great pleasure to introduce tonight speaker eric byrnes. he is a former correspondent for nbc news and the today show. he served as host of the top-rated fox news watch for 10 years. he is the recipient of an emmy award for media criticism. he is the author of many books including "1920: the year that make the decade roar," and "the golden lad: the haunting story of quentin and theodore roosevelt." "1920" was named as one of the best nonfiction books published in 2015. it is a great pleasure for me to present to you eric burns. [applause] mr. burns: thank you louise, and
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thank you to those who applauded. it says in the printed information you have that i'm going to speak about two books tonight. lad" and "1920." even i would get tired of me if i was speaking about two books. it is just this i'm talking about. home i havey at about 12 biographies of theodore roosevelt. and this is just one of them. this is a three volume biography of roosevelt. it's by edmund morris. i want to show you the half of this. -- heft of this. this is the life of theodore roosevelt. that is my book about theodore roosevelt. i obviously a human explanation about the disparity in size, but
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i would like to do it metaphorically. not in terms of the different -- i don't want these remind me of how much i didn't write. i want to make the explanation metaphorically, not in terms of books but in terms of paintings. theodore roosevelt's life was a mural. all the books written about him indicate there was so much to his life, more to his life, more separate, interesting elements and there were two the life of any other president we've ever had. you probably know about his childhood. he was a weakling. he was asthmatic. he eventually built himself up to be in copper instantly strong. --in copper hensel incomprehensibley strong. he held more offices in
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government than any other president. he was a state assemblyman. one day he had to come home because his first wife and mother were dying in the same house on the same day. he was the assistant secretary of the navy when the secretary of the navy when on vacation, roosevelt tried an almost got us into a war which he dearly wanted to do. he was the new york police commissioner. he was famous for his midnight rides where he would check to see whether his policeman were sleeping, either on the job or with the prostitutes. known, or i should -- if you're at lives are on the ground, you were in bad shape. [laughter] he first came to the national stage with the rough riders.
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it is erroneously thought they climbed up san juan hill. it was called cattle hill -- kettle hill, but it made him a national figure. he became the governor of new york, the vice president, the president of united states after that on a safari he and his party virtually single-handedly stopped -- stocked the smithsonian in washington and the museum of natural history in new york. he was one of the country's great conservationist. douglas brickley wrote a 900 justbook about roosevelt, roosevelt the conservationist. as i said, his life was a mural. but i didn't want to paint one of those. excerptid was take one of his life, which to me belongs in the center of the mural. and the rest of his life to me
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radiates outward from that point. i can assure you this book includes all of the salient points about roosevelt's life, but they are compressed. as for the center of the mural, it is expanded. this is not a book about politics. it is a book about parenthood. it proceeds from these three contentions. first, you don't roosevelt was the most bellicose man ever to occupy the white house. second, theodore roosevelt was the best parent ever to occupy the white house. and third, his favorite child was his last, his youngest son quentin. these three contentions form the combination upon which fate did not smile. let me begin with some evidence about roosevelt's bellicosity. these of the first two paragraphs of the golden lad.
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it was 1897. it was time. actually, for theodore roosevelt it was passed time. he wanted the spanish-american war to begin. actually, he wanted any work to begin. -- war to begin. it was like eating the right foods, getting enough rest, getting enough exercise. yes, that most of all, exercise. and roosevelt more than most people is the value of exercise. no national life is worth having, he said in one of his if thecomiums to combat, nation is not willing when the need is a rise to stake everything on the supreme -- of war. to pour out his blood, treasures, tears like water rather than to submit to the loss of honor and renowned. the washington post was charmed
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with such manly sentiments, responding the next day with a warm editorial round of applause. well done, nobly spoken, the paper raved. theodore roosevelt, you have found your proper place at last. all hail." that is the end of the quote from the post and the end of the quote from my book. but paul did not hail. roosevelt dismissed the non-hailers as members of a cult of non-mobility. -- non-virility. "it was the supreme test of a man's character." he thought "no triumph of pieces quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war." so how did roosevelt develop this war lust of his?
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i mentioned, and you already knew i assumed that as a child he was very weak. the only way he could get strong and conquer as mother played him so much that when he red by -- read by candlelight he didn't have the strength of breath to blow up the candle. he had to call a parent to do it. he started a program at his father's urging of bodybuilding. weightlifting, boxing, wrestling, hunting. as a result, before he became a man he began a he-man. the question is what affects did this transformation of his corporeal self have on his ideological self? here is my theory, and again i quote from the golden lad. roosevelt'serms,
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making progress as follows. weakness is a danger. strength provides protection. the greater the strength, the greater the number of dangers that can be afforded. -- thwarted. strength becomes a virtue in itself and one seek outlets to express it for the sheer joy of exertion. theodore roosevelt'bodybuilding program became the basis of his foreign-policy as an adult. each curling of the dumbbell brought him closer to his eventual eagerness to defend the united states or rescue another nation. each firing of his rifle at a rabbit skittering across the yard mayhem in time more capable of seeing provocation in the actions of another country. each poker jab -- hook or jab
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eventually led to his desire to attack a nation he perceived as hostile. it's almost as easy to explain is that. sometimes complex matters are." strength unused after all the strength wasted. in his post-presidency years, roosevelt wrote some nationally syndicated editorial. ward war i, for the great as it was known when it was being fought, began in 1914. by 1917 the united states still had not entered it. roosevelt was livid about this. he referred to president woodrow mollycoddlellow, a pacifist, a skunk. he was timid, neither a gentleman nor real man, and a crass -- a prize jackass.
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ironically, after having used most of these epithets and print, publicly excoriating the president, he went to the white house to beg wilson to allow him to assemble a so-called roosevelt regiment. it would sale abroad and do battle with the central powers. rooseveltiliating for to ask this of a modern -- mollycoddle pacifist. only one cause could get him to do something like this. war. rooseveltm either that the united states was not at war, and was not going to war if he could help it. but he couldn't. however, when our country did take up arms in europe, wilson ignored the notion of a roosevelt regiment.
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well, first he laughed at it then he ignored it. he also left at the notion of roosevelt's being in a fighting man's uniform again. at the time that roosevelt asked wilson for the chance roosevelt was 59 years old. however, roosevelt had four sons. all of them enlisted, wanting among other things to make their father proud. he would fight the great war vicariously through these four boys of his. that brings us to theater roosevelt's parents, and to his favorite of his six children, as i said the youngest, quentin. shortly after quentin was born, theodore said in sagamore hill, the family home in oyster bay, long island, in that home were housed all things beautiful.
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rifles and children. as a child quentin was like no other child. in fact he became "the country's little boy." the source of innocent amusement in the main sections of newspapers, like the charming scamps in the funny pages. why did quentin become the country's little boy? he was adored "for such things home,nging a piglet the home being the white house, and inviting friends to play baseball on the white house lawn." once he got a mothball stuck so far open nostril he almost swallowed it. all he could say in his defense was that he thought it would fit. and another abuse of a body cavity, he got his worst year infection ever when he stuck a
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pebble into it. again, he said he thought there was room. but in addition to being a slapstick comedian, he was a witty and sophisticated little whacks at the age of 10 he looked down at them and said to his father they looked like a sunset, don't they? story -- quilinton nten story. he entered the room without foot snaketh a four around his neck. eachld a smaller snake in hand. knox was horrified.
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roosevelt had seen things like this before. he smiled and took it in stride. later roosevelt wrote this of the incident. go in thed quentin next room where congressmen were waiting until i should be at my leisure. i thought he and the snakes would enliven their waiting time. the next day the story was reported in the new york times. something us important about theodore roosevelt the parent. he was often an accomplice in the childhood of quentin and his others. theodore was six years old all of his adult life. children. of these
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theodore said that to a reporter. he said he had great fun with them and he was touched by the way they feel i am there special friend and companion. he played hide and seek with them. he was always it in games of tag. them,yed scary bear with growling as he chased them around. he wrestled with them gently. more than anything else he had the low fights with them. at eachng the pillows other almost every night bashing each other, shrieking with delight. what touch football would become to the kennedys.
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he wrote theears following to his older son who was away at boarding school. until he goes to bed the house is entirely lively. after that the rooms seem big and lonely, and full of echoes. man.velt was an epistolary he usually began his letters dear quenty-q. wrote tone letter he his son when he was in washington and the family was back in oyster bay. -q.ssed quenty the birds are nearly grown up now. that is all he had time to write. but it is sweet.
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that is what most of his correspondence was. theodore roosevelt was sweet. , very briefetters from the son to the father. dear father, please bring me a mountain. that is one. and, dear father, it has snowed here. kisses, quentin. a great loving relationship between the two. why is the subtitle of this book of quenting story and theodore roosevelt? when quentin was old enough to go away to school himself making sagamore hill quiet all the time, something happened to him. something changed.
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nobody knows what or why. quentin was still his happy-go-lucky self most of the time. that hes in the stories had to write for class, he revealed another side to himself. this is from the book. he tended to turn out macabre tales. desperation and suicide that he did not dare show his parents. every authority figure in his stories was a disguised version of jack london's dark superman from the seawolf. tragicr he wrote was a intellectual. braved but doomed and usually
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alone in a cosmic sense as well. as i said, each of his sons went to war. quentin should not have. his vision was so bad he had to memorize the eye chart the day before he went to take his physical. he had a friend who was able to steal a copy and he memorized it. he passed his physical and he was assigned as a pilot to the 95th squadron of the united states army air corps. .e was airsick not the best of attributes to have if you're going to fly. he eventually got over his airsickness but it was a rough start. roosevelt was shot in
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the head by two bullets from a pistol that was held by a german pilot who had been pursuing him and eventually caught up to him and shot him in the cockpit. when his plane crashed, a couple of the german planes followed it to the ground and looking around they saw they had brought down a roosevelt. they were at once appalled and proud of themselves. they built a monument for the slain pilot as best they could. they gathered all the rocks and put them around the wreckage of the plane. six months later theodore roosevelt, already sickly died of a broken heart.
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i talked to a doctor about this. you can in fact die of a broken heart. emotional woes that he could not overcome. war.velt gotten his it had cost him his favorite human being on earth. soldierdeath of this then cost roosevelt his own life. had two primary reactions to this story, which is mentioned in brief and most biographies of roosevelt but not at length. the two primary reactions are this. i have sympathy for theodore than i ever had before. he had a cause, a philosophy, he
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stuck to it, his son died, but roosevelt never wavered in his faith. the other reaction is theodore roosevelt was a hypocrite such as i have never known before. he thought war was noble, the supreme test of a man's character and when war cost him his son he could not go on living. i don't know how you will feel but i assure you that if you read this book you will think differently about theodore roosevelt from what you have thought before. and i thank you. two things to mention before you come to the microphone.
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because i talks short enjoy questions and answers more than i enjoy lecturing. i forgot what the second thing was. remember paul. so much for questions and answers. yes? >> i was here last year and tonight for both of your books. onas here for your talk 1920, the book. i was looking at the reviews. there is some critical comments about oh with respect to the facts that are discussed. in review goes page by page 1920 and this dissecting the
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book and pointing out certain inaccuracies. in this particular book the review said there is a reference to the accident, the carriage accident that supposedly took place. that there is is a reference you make to this carriage accident at the white house. when it takes place in massachusetts. as a reference to the memorial marker which is at the base of the flag at sagamore hill. it's sort of goes on and on about it. when i read those kinds of me aws, it gives hesitation as to why is this
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happening? how do you respond? the plane that doesn't malfunction when the person says it was a french plane. there's a reference in 1920 the swearing of calvin coolidge that takes place at his home. there's a reference to the medal of honor. saying somehow it is bill clinton. i'm not sure necessarily. eric: i get the point. it is a hell of a thing i have to respond to. having had a journalistic ground
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-- background, what i do is get to sources. that is what a journalist uses as his guideline. there are at least two for all of these sources. i get sense all of the major reviews to the book. ahave never seen seriously fact question any review sent to me. i have seen some things written about books i have written online that are astonishing to me. i don't know what books they read. i am sure there are errors. it's not possible to write a book without an error. plaque, iss of the said it is on the grounds of sagamore hill. it's by the flagpole. let's not get into this now but before i wereon
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to upset about this i would want to know who wrote this, is it reason to sayas a something negative, which i have found. i'm not aware of this. the review about the 1920 book, in thee of the reviews -- new yorklibrary public library's review page. >> that doesn't tell me who wrote it. >> there is a name attributed to the one review. he puts his name to a letter. can you tell me -- i don't know. there is a question about the plaque. just a marker that was originally in france? eric:
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france, i wrote the book a long time ago. .is gravesite was moved his initial burial site was in france. i believe his permanent burial site is in france. hence the plaque. >> but that is not the actual plaque on the burial site. i don't know what the plaque on the burial site in france is. i was talking about the plaque at sycamore hill -- sagamore hill. brother buried with his ? he also died. >> i don't know. i did no research by the other brothers after quentin died. i can't tell you. thank you. >> i have two questions. his warlikeo nature, i always thought it was
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due to the fact his father in the civil war pay for a substitute. because his mother was a sub -- seven or -- southerner. was the maint that reason for his there a coziness -- eric: it's addressed in the book i don't think it was as big a factor but it is a factor in it is in the book, some things had to get leg -- left out of the talk. >> there is room for what you just said. between avenue p and avenue r, it's quentin road. the only other quentin i know. i never looked it up. do you happen to know if it is named after roosevelt? eric: no, i don't.
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like i will look it up. thank you. >> what happened to the other brothers? eric: i told you i didn't deal with the other brothers. one of them turned into a member of the john birch society. they survived the great war though. >> rg, the next oldest brother was seriously injured and sent home on a medical discharge and was well enough by the time world war ii, around to fight. -- quinton and archibald were close. the other brothers were not points of interest to me. theodore roosevelt with a child during the civil war.
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i know there is a famous painting isil of soldiers -- i soldiers with children looking out of the window. one was supposed to be theodore roosevelt. in thatup then environment. there were a lot of casualties during the civil war. a lot of people who lost legs and arms and limbs. i am surprised growing up he wasn't affected to some extent by the horrors that came out of the civil war. that didn't seem to make an impression on him. is there any comment? war, this is the result of a dozen books, it had no direct result on the family. keep two things in mind.
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he was in new york. wombe was in sconce in the of the family dedicated to rejecting him from horrors -- to protecting him from horrors like that. it was never discussed in the family. the husbandhe fact was a union sympathizer and wife owned property and slaves in the south. they could not afford to talk about it. >> ok. >> thank you for your interesting comments. we happened to have been in sagamore today. the older that
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normandyied after the invasion. was moved to be buried in the normandy sarah terry -- cemetery. eric: that sounds right. concept where you initially said he's the best parent who was ever president . eric: i will tell you what she said was she likes the concept of calling theodore the best parent in the white house. parentn't think a good has a favorite. idea did you get the quentin was his favorite? did he say so? the entryris recounts
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in his white house diary where he says i'm realizing alice, the first daughter, is most like me in temperate in spirit and he began sending her around the world. did he say quinton is my favorite son? eric: yes >> why? playful, thet youngest, the last. there were going to be no more roosevelt children. none of the others had a personality as vivid as quinton. i don't know about the truth of this are not but there is some lore passed down through the generation of people who worked there. quentin was a difficult birth. when he finally came into the world he was supposed to be headed to his mother and then his father.
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haveather is supposed to put a finger around his thumb to have dones s this to him. ever since there was a bond. there was no problem with this among the older children. to ted juniorter who was on the morning school -- off to boarding school. he had a different relationship with the older boys. almost as if they were friends, brothers. he could tell them things like this. they were his favorites in a different way. he did not make quinton his favorite in terms of less presence, morere
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time. it was what was in his heart. >> thank you for the talk. you mentioned when he was at harvard that quentin had a lot of work -- a lot of dark writing. what contributed that darkness? he seems like he had a nice childhood and all that. >> i have no idea. all i can tell you is that it continued and that when he ained the army air corps, famous flying ace from that time was the commander of the 95th. timesorted quentin many for the chances he took in the
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air. he wrecked the plane once. he may have done it to liberally . he flew out of formation. guess, he seemed the happiest child to be at home. he was the saddest child to have left. was it just that? it could have been. psychohistory. it is just a guess. >> he had problems with his vision. did he have problems with his vision that he was probably not to the job? was there ever a discussion about having him pulled? having him pulled and not being able to fly a plane?
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eric: no because he was brave. before the 95th. they flew supplies back-and-forth in front of enemy lines. roosevelt always got there the quickest. he feared because he was a roosevelt he was going to expect special favors. he never did and the fact that he took the chances he did to , something in him was pleased by it. this roosevelt kid wasn't pampered. he was willing to go up into the air and take any chances that had to be taken or do that didn't have to be taken. he probably took a chance that led to his death because he was alone.
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he engaged in two german fighter planes. at some point it was one against six. quentin.ther of is there any discussion about her relationship with quentin? was there a reason she didn't look upon him as favorably? eric: she was a very good mother and looked upon quentin as favorably as theodore did for a disciplinarian except the one store, wasled down a playing theodore at kettle hill taft's son. he started to bleed and ran to mrs. roosevelt for first aid.
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time she raised her voice to her son. probably a good time to do it. >> last one? >> thank you. i wanted to verify, i read that roosevelt was part of the recruiting board -- pressure the recruiting board for quentin. in to the air him force. eric: army air corps. >> and he felt more guilty about his death. i read that he wasn't accepted in the army. eric: that's not true. his influence?e
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had no influence with the wilson administration. thank you all very much. >> thank you. we have books for sale. eric will be here to sign books for you. we will see you next summer. nice to have you here. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend. >> ahead of the debate we look using thedidates,
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c-span video library. >> i have seen this story before. i've seen the bad news of the shooting or a weather emergency or a famine. there will be more stories. there was something in the story yesterday that was different. optimismhe dark day of and hope. the presidency is the most visible thread that runs through the tapestry of the american government. it sets the tone for the other branches. it spurs expectations of the people. its powers are vast and consequential. impossible forts mortals to fulfill without humility and insistent attention to its purposes as set forth in the constitution of the united states.
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watch any time on and listen on the c-span radio app. >> on lectures in history, george michael teaches a class on white supremacist groups in the mid to late 20th century. he describes the difference between white supremacists and white separatists groups. he discusses the relationship between the extreme right self culture and current politics. his class is 50 minutes. professor michael: today we are going to take a look of a history of the way the historyst -- the of the white separatist movement in the united states. it is a marginal movement. in light of some very


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