tv The Presidency Theodore Roosevelt the National War College CSPAN April 13, 2019 12:02pm-12:45pm EDT
>> announcer: next, it has been 116 years since president theodore roosevelt made his way to an already historic army fort in washington, d.c. to oversee the cornerstone laying of what is now known as the national war college. the building, whose construction began february 21, 1903, is named roosevelt hall. in about 40 minutes we hear from , the 26th president great-grandson, tweed. first, arkansas congressman french hill and janet breslin smith talk about theodore roosevelt's interest in education and his role in founding the college. >> i think everybody is seated.
there may be others who will be joining us later. they will find a place to sit as well. i am mike maples, president of the national war college alumni association, class of 1993. we are gathered once again to commemorate the laying of the cornerstone for roosevelt hall, which occurred on the 21st of february, 1903. i thank all of you for joining us today because i think it will be a very special remembrance of a very special occasion. i recognize the commandant, present with us today. even though she is trying to hide, cynthia is present here, too. congressman french hill is going to be our speaker today. not present yet is tweed roosevelt.
dr. janet breslin-smith, our historian, who will also be sharing her thoughts with us today and jean russell is out there as i mentioned. c-span is with us today and they will be taping this event for a later showing. you might have noticed when you were out in the rotunda that on this wall behind me there is a large marble plaque. on that plaque, it recognizes contributions of president theodore roosevelt's secretary of war. elihu root was the individual who carried out the vision president roosevelt had of modernizing the armed forces.
in his cornerstone speech that he delivered when the cornerstone was laid, president roosevelt articulated four large goals he had. the largest was the establishment of general staff. he wanted to modernize the army. he wanted to modernize our national guard as a national militia, and he wanted to provide for the training of the officers and men of the army. root is recognized because of his recognition to modernize the armed forces. president roosevelt also said in that speech it should be a matter of pride and congratulations for every american citizen interested in the welfare of the country that the foundation stone of the building was being laid.
our military could be prepared to bring peace in order for our nation to play its great role in a time of war. with the assured self-confidence of a just man armed, president roosevelt's words. the cornerstone that gave us this building, roosevelt hall, and our citizens today should find comfort and pride that the national war college continues to serve the interests of our nation by providing leaders of the armed forces and the interagency and provide a foundation for strategic thinking that enables our national security. we are going to go back in time and talk about that foundation that was established with the laying of the cornerstone. we are going to begin our program with dr. janet breslin
smith, who is her historian, a former national war college faculty member, class of 1993, a member of the alumni association, but i would say more importantly, she is a person who has an unmatched passion for this building and the national war college. >> thanks so much. am i on the right mic? for those of you who are first-time visitors, i'm glad you are here to see this remarkable building. for our alumni, welcome home.
i know in the years ahead we hope to have more events for alumni. to really take advantage of this building and this institution. to the congressman, i'm so happy you are here to share this day with us. to me, this building, the first moment i saw it, i thought about theodore roosevelt. to me, it looks like he wanted to be. it is a building with great shoulders. it exemplifies power to me and stability. president roosevelt, from the moment he had the idea of world leadership for the united states, he wanted to express it in this building. let me give you a feel for mcnair itself and the early history of the national college. fort mcnair was established in 1794. i always thought it was a great military lesson for us. when i first got here as a
refugee from capitol hill, i came to this post and i saw this building, walking around the grounds, especially in summer, and i saw the cannon facing the water. indeed, this port was designed to protect us against enemies coming from sea. unfortunately, the brits in the war of 1812 decided to come from land. they finished destroying the capital building under construction. it is always the first lesson in military planning to anticipate the unanticipated. this is the only u.s. fort that was ever lost to a foreign enemy. during the civil war, the arsenal, and we had a penitentiary here, was often visited by president lincoln.
he wanted to see the new design. after his assassination, those buildings in the middle of the post, the cream-colored building was a courthouse. the places where -- were held. there was such a fear at the time mobs would take them out and kill them immediately. they were put on a barge in the river to protect them. obviously, the courtroom, they were found guilty and the hanging took place across the street from where the officers club is. for us, the civil war era was one of the involvement of the president and sadly the place where the judgment after his assassination. following the spanish-american war and as the united states prepared for a bigger role in the world, it was a time president roosevelt was looking
ahead at our role in the world. it was mentioned root was charged with rethinking the structure of the army. the first intent was, and this was in 1899, to establish a war college, not to promote war, but to preserve peace. the intent was to enhance military professionalism at the time. the army picked the firm to design and build this impressive structure. his great-grandfather intended this magnificent building would be the focal point of the entire post. here it was between the anacostia river and the potomac.
in front of it would be this promenade so it would be set alone. when the architect came toward the end of the construction, he had not been on the post. he came in his carriage and saw that despite his plea to the army to take down those buildings in the middle of fort mcnair, the army refused. not only were the historic, the army did not want to be told by some architect. when white entered those metal gates in his carriage, he looked down to see the war college, and instead he saw those old cream-colored buildings. he turned the carriage around
and left the post. this is a passionate architect. during world war ii, the army war college set up by theodore roosevelt, because during the war they needed to have a headquarters building and planning office. this building was converted into planning. the rotunda was covered over for additional floors, more space for people to work, and in the final years of the war, 1943, general eisenhower, general marshall, and the secretary of
the navy at the time all came together in the midst of war and said to themselves, when this war is over, we know we will never fight a war the same way. we are going to face a different enemy in a different setting in time. when eisenhower came back after the end of world war ii, he did something those of you in washington who have worked in congress or on budget appropriations knows the significance of what i'm going to say right now. eisenhower knew this was the army war college. he knew we had to change. he single handedly went to the congress and said he was going to take the appropriations building and he was going to take the central position of this building and create a new institution. he named it the national war college. his vision from the beginning was to make it a different type of institution and that it would have all four services, navy, army, the new air force at the time, and that he would include in it a sizable component of foreign service officers, the state department and the
intelligence community. as he set up a time, we would have to face for the advent of the cold war, we would have to find a different way of preparing our officers. foreign service officers as well as military officers. what i always like to look back at is looking at the charter we had in the era in which we were founded, historian at the time said this college would be concerned with range strategy and the utilization of natural resources necessary to implement the strategy. it said at the time our graduates will exercise great influence in the formation of national foreign policy in peace and war. coming out of the devastation in world war ii, it is interesting to reflect back on our first commandant, who at the time was preparing to invade japan.
he was off the shore of okinawa. the horrible battle had finished. before the advent in the use of the atomic bomb, he was prepared for an invasion of japan. he says when he got this assignment, he set at the time i was in manila planning to take the sixth army into japan. i had many lessons and instructive discussions with him. we talked about the problems of military education. i will always remember his basic admonition to me. he said make them ponder. when admiral hill was speaking to the first class of 1946, he said to them, this is exactly what we propose to do here. we want to give you practical problems upon which to think and ponder and arrive at individual conclusions that you are ready to defend against all attack. he wanted men of confidence.
he wanted men of confidence who had strategic vision. i go back to that period of 1946 because sometimes in washington we get depressed about the fatigue between the congress and the president and the sense of dysfunction. we were remarkably creative. if theodore roosevelt had been with us at that time, he would have been proud that within that period of time, we had the national security act, we established a new air force, the cia, the national security conference. we restructured ourselves in a creative process that is breathtaking in terms of how fast it happened. eisenhower thought about this college from the very beginning as a source of strategy. he wanted to be the strategic leader.
the first vice commandant was a strategic thinker that really helped us understand the threat of the soviet union in the beginning years of the cold war. kennan was an expert, thoughtful analyst of russian history, psychology, economics. he understood marxism. when he came here, he writes about that period in his memoir with deep affection and emotion in his relationship with the military officers he was with. it gave him time to reflect on his own sense of not only the pure nature of the soviet union, but having designed a strategy to defeat it without devastating the world because he was very well aware, we all were, of the devastating power of atomic weapons. eisenhower's vision for this
school and the role of kennan's strategy stay with us now. i have no doubt in this class that the students have the same commitment eisenhower's first class had. i know the faculty here has the same challenge with students to make them ponder. there are no easy answers. there are no school solutions. the challenges we face will be more important to have the students be prepared to respond to a person who says, what do we do now? i'm glad you are here to share this with us. if you are leaving and it is your first time here, drive around to look at the officer houses and those historic buildings in the middle. the cream-colored buildings. take some time to tour this building. thanks so much.
[applause] >> i have the honor now of introducing our guest speaker, congressman french hill. we welcome you to the national war college. i believe this is your first visit. congressman hill represents the second congressional district. his background is in economics. the other associations he has in the interests he takes up, he has multiple caucus memberships, which includes missile defense, multiple foreign relations caucuses, historic preservation caucus as well.
you put all of that together, the military, the historic, the foreign affairs areas, it really brings about every thing we have been talking about. he has practiced using economics as part of our national strategy as well. you think about the interagency, we teach and utilize here, congressman hill does represent that. importantly, as i was pondering, which i was taught to do at the national war college, i was pondering, why would congress have such interest in theodore roosevelt?
when we thought, who would speak on this occasion to try to relate the laying of the cornerstone to the transition we are in today? and what we are facing. tweed did not hesitate. he said french hill. i will talk to him. i had a moment, asked the congressman where this interest in roosevelt came from and the relationship with tweed, and what i learned made a lot of sense. he was walking down the street, fell in step with an author who had written the definitive series on roosevelt and dove in to it. from that, became a member of the theodore roosevelt foundation with tweed and with whom we have developed a very strong relationship over the last couple of years.
congressman, we are delighted to have you. we look forward to your remarks. perhaps in the middle we may have a roosevelt arrived as well. [applause] rep. hill: thank you. good afternoon. i am delighted to be in historic roosevelt hall. in my executive branch experience, i know something about interagency coordination, something taught very ably here in the defense university. i described those two years working for president bush 41 as a real effort in being a referee. i worked for secretary of treasury brady and randy economic policy council on the white house staff, which he translated in, i don't want to participate in meetings with
certain cabinet officers. you get to do that. i know a lot about policy coordination. it is a treat to be here. i want to think the commandant for the invitation. general maples, thank you for your kind introduction. it is a real treat to be on fort mcnair. 116 years ago this week, theodore roosevelt was present for the laying of the historic cornerstone we have talked about this afternoon. a large crowd of dignitaries, officials, and troops assembled in honor of george washington's birthday to inaugurate the army war college and commence the work of this magnificent building. as was said, roosevelt hall joined other outstanding examples of work in washington and new york, including columbia university and of course the west and east wings of the white house. we stand on hallowed ground as
this arsenal site is our third oldest army post, together with carlisle barracks and west point. for his part, president roosevelt was a student of strategy and military tactics. two years after graduation from harvard, roosevelt authored the naval war of 1812. the book went through four editions in the first six years. in 1886, just four years after being published, the navy saw to it that a copy of the book is placed aboard every ship. this work was considered the definitive account of american and british naval tactics. a significant point of the work was to criticize the lack of american preparedness. tr was real and less in his critique of president madison in the lack of preparation.
in his lecture entitled, washington's forgotten maxim at the naval war college in 1897 as a newly minted assistant secretary of the navy, roosevelt attacked those who refused to prepare due to the, quote, shortsightedness of many, the sheer ignorance of a vast number, and a selfish reluctance to ensure against future danger among yet others. he left no one out who was unprepared for the war of 1812. but likewise, he found equally, if not more reprehensible, the contemptible war hawks who, quote, brought on the war, yet deliberately refused to make preparations to carry it to a successful conclusion. roosevelt concluded the war of 1812, quote, bitterly did the
nation pay for its lack of foresight and forethought. roosevelt would devote his life to lecturing on preparedness as the best way to avoid war. starting with his work on the war of 1812 and ending in his sharp rebuke of woodrow wilson in the run-up to world war i. roosevelt's columns in 1916 and 1917 were replete with lectures on what he called broomstick preparedness. that's because the army had no -- and they drilled with broomsticks. roosevelt would cite one of our first presidents principal maxims at every opportunity. george washington wrote eldridge jerry, there is nothing so likely to -- as likely to be well prepared to meet an enemy.
this was not forgotten by teddy roosevelt. by the time roosevelt was confirmed as assistant secretary of the navy, he was fully engaged promoting the role of seapower as a strategic american activity. the naval war college where roosevelt delivered his talk was the nerve center of american strategic planning in place were naval officers went to advance their knowledge of science and history and tactics of marine warfare. tr was not alone in his concern over lack of american preparedness and staying true to george washington's maxim. roosevelt kept president mckinley's highly respected secretary of war, elihu root, and secretary of state john hay. root had been a longtime pr supporter, having assisted him in his earliest run for the new york assembly and for new york
governor. along the way, roosevelt greatly enjoyed root's wit. tr believed root could succeed him as president if you were not so tightly associated with new york and wall street. the secretary believed the army staff had grown bloated and subject to the general officers and their personal preferences. there was criticism during the spanish-american war. secretary root long argued for the idea of a general staff for the army, chief of staff reporting to the secretary of war, and professional education. in 1899, roosevelt published a column in "the century" which outlines that ineptness during the spanish-american war.
the mistakes, blunders, and shortcomings in the army management during 1898 should be credited mainly not to anyone in office, but to the public servants of the people and therefore to the people themselves who permitted the army to rust since the civil war with no chance whatsoever to perfect itself by practice. any trouble that may come upon the army and the nation in the next few years will be due to the failure to provide for a thoroughly reorganized regular army of adequate size in 1898. that is how roosevelt spoke. i don't know how he got through english class. [laughter] rep. hill: it is a run-on sentence. for this failure of the senate and the house which took the lead against reorganizing the army, they will be primarily responsible.
roosevelt personally, and he became an assistant secretary of the navy, began to really advocate for these changes. he compared it to what was going on at the navy. tr credited the administration of president arthur, who initiated the serious strategic work to build a properly sized and equipped navy. roosevelt argued this contrasted with the state of the army. tr bluntly described the state of the army in that same article. the bureaus in washington were absolutely enmeshed in red tape and held by elderly men who were no longer fit to breakthrough routine and show the extraordinary energy, business capacity, initiative, and willingness to accept responsibility as that which was needed. finally, the higher officers had
been absolutely denied their chance to practice their profession, which the higher offices of the navy had been long accustomed. this was the idea of maneuvers, having joint force exercises the navy initiated years before. adding to the frustration, the fact that in the aftermath of the civil war general sherman had commissioned major general upton to study the armies of europe and asia. his recommendations included the formation of the general staff and a systematic extension of military education. upton's report directed by general sherman sat on the shelves in washington and collected dust for decades. knowing all of this, roosevelt concluded his opinion piece by arguing congress had failed to make adequate provision for a proper army and provide for the reorganization of the army for
its practice in time of peace. the whole staff system and much else should be remodeled, he argued. there is no doubt this fully reflected the strong opinions of president mckinley's secretary of war, root. mckinley, against the advice of many, became the hero of san juan heights, the former governor of new york, the utah roosevelt as his running mate. in a state of shock to the nation, mckinley was assassinated while visiting buffalo, new york. roosevelt at age 42 takes the oath of office as our 26th president. on december 3, 1901, roosevelt sent his first annual message to the congress. it was an intensive, detailed list of roosevelt's ideas for congress's consideration.
in those days, we did not have a state of the union speech. the president sent his annual message as was suggested in the constitution, and it was read to both chambers, and on that day, the clerks read themselves horse -- hoarse over the course of two and a half hours it took to read the message in each chamber. i can tell you as an aside each year members got less and less interested in hearing from president roosevelt. in 1909, his last annual message to the congress, they voted to table it. [laughter] rep. hill: i don't think they heard it all the way out. in that first message, the president requested a general staff should be created and there should be criteria for the promotion not just based on seniority. he believed thorough military education for regulars, the national guard, and others in
civilian life who desire to prepare for military duty was essential. in his second message to congress, roosevelt referred to the need for a general staff as urgent. it has gone from a recommendation to, i'm not kidding you. i want it. after years of passionate advocacy, roosevelt secured approval for the creation of the army war college here at the washington arsenal site. on that cold february saturday, 1903, roosevelt told the troops and guests, do not make 5% of the soldiers' real work. officer and man alike must be trained to the highest point in
theory and in the practice of the profession. the army of the united states is, and it is not desirable that it should be other than a small army relatively to the population of the country, but we have a right to expect the army shall represent for its size the very highest point of efficiency of an army, any army in the civilized world. as a member of congress, i was pleased that the 115th congress took to heart president washington's maxim, agreeing to fully fund the department of defense priorities in training and the enhancement of the national guard as well as in forward-looking improvements in uniform services both in efficiency and weapon services anticipating all forms of future conflicts.
the budget cuts and sequester policies of the previous administration left our men and women in uniform inadequately supplied. i saw that first hand as i represent little rock airb ase. -- i saw that firsthand as i represent the center for excellence in air mobility and the national center for field training and executive education for the army national guard. during the 1903 george washington birthday week, an impressive masonic ceremony of laying the roosevelt hall cornerstone took place. the masonic grand master spread the mortar. the cornerstone of this building was laid with the very trowel used by george washington. we salute the persistence of president roosevelt and secretary of war root and recommit that on our watch, george washington's maxim of
peace through strength will not be forgotten. thank you for having me today. [applause] >> would you take a few questions? ok. we are going to pass the microphone around. if you have questions, hold up your hand. please wait to ask your question until you get the microphone so we can record it on c-span. >> were there other sites considered or was this always the location they had in mind for the war college? >> based on my reading, they wanted it to be in washington, d.c. this was the logical site for convenience and the fact they wanted it to be a comprehensive site not connected to west point. this was to continue education
and broaden that education to the guard and as president roosevelt's speech, those in civilian life who might move to a military career at some point. >> how early was this named theodore roosevelt hall? rep. hill: how early? >> yes. rep. hill: it was, i think dedicated as roosevelt hall on that day. it was named for the president at the time of its completion. >> i am a former student here. same seat. [laughter] >> they never break. >> so glad you brought george washington into all of this. i always felt when i was here he deserved to be one of the major people we always think about when we think about strategy and
success. my question is, and i recall, maybe janet knows, maybe it was senator truman coming over to listen to the lectures that were here -- was that who was? >> we have pictures in our history of president truman. he came over to this auditorium and i always thought -- there is a picture of it because there are two things that struck me. one, he sat with everyone else in the auditorium at the time we were trying to understand not only the lessons of world war ii, but what was stalin up to? when you look at the picture, he is walking down the steps and you are looking out, there was only one car. i do not know if he drove by himself or he had one secret service person, but there was no entourage. it was just truman by himself. the other thing i remember
reading about that time that i wish we could bring back, that at the time congressional leaders came to lecture, and afterwards admiral hill would invite members of the congress, both parties without press, to lunch. the speaker would address everybody. there would be questions and answers with the students, many of whom were world war ii -- we had general officers. they would go to admiral hill's house. i always believed the bipartisan support for strategy that lasted all the years of the cold war started here because they had a chance to learn together, ask questions without the press to say, how can we get a better understanding of marxism, of stalin?
and that bipartisan trust started at lunch -- well, here in learning and at lunch at admiral hill's house. i always had this romantic notion. we can bring this back. you are invited to lunch any time. that the hill could use this as a refuge from all the politics because there are so many things on our plate that we all need to ponder. >> i think all of that is true. members relish interaction with students. i'm always pleased to come here and participate in the economics class that i have been a guest lecturer for over the last four years. the questions are terrific from people from the civilian side
and our foreign military officers. it is always a diverse set of questions. i hope you will continue to invite members to participate. >> that was part of the reason for my question, that you continue to come over here. i understand this building also is the site for congress to come to in the case of an emergency. >> in the republican conference, one of our planning meetings in the beautiful auditorium -- we are not strangers to the campus. >> thank you. rep. hill: it is a pleasure. thanks for the invitation, and here is to theodore roosevelt. cheers. [applause]
announcer: we have just heard about theodore roosevelt's role in creating the national war college in washington, d.c. next, on the presidency, tweed roosevelt placed tribute to his great-grandfather with remarks in the college rotunda. he speaks in front of a marker commemorating the 1903 construction of roosevelt hall. this is 15 minutes. >> first of all, welcome everybody. this is our second -- this is going to be an annual event. the theodore roosevelt association, which was created shortly after tr died to commemorate his memory, and one of the things we do is we have established a new relationship with this institution.