The young lady who introduced Mr. Roosevelt gave some brief background to the times. She reminded us that Henry Ford had just sold his one millionth Model T automobile, and that we could own one ourselves for $300. We could buy our gasoline at the local drugstore. Remember, though that the speed limit in town is ten miles per hour, and be careful.
Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that there are now bathtubs in 16% of all American homes, and nearly 12% have telephones!
Mr. Roosevelt took the podium and regaled us with tales of his first buffalo hunt in Dakota. His wife was pregnant with their first child, but of course she realized that Theodore was doing this for her, for "What wife would not be delighted to hold her new child in the parlor with the mounted head of such a great beast looking down on them?"
This trip, which included nine straight days in the rain before a buffalo was bagged, was the impetus which inspired the man to focus as he did on conservation, the preservation of the great land in which we live. Mr. Roosevelt told how he saved the pelicans on Pelican Island in Florida, in spite of critics who questioned the constitutionality of his actions. The American Antiquities Act of 1906 allowed him to designate the Grand Canyon a National Monument, and thus protect it from predation.
Next, The President opened the sessions to questions. One young man asked concerning Mr. Roosevelt's role as Father of the National Park System. We were advised that while he did indeed establish five national parks during his administration, there were already five parks designated prior to that. I followed his response with a question. "Mr. President, with all due respect, would you mind revisiting 1912?"
"Not at all! At the Republican Convention in Chicago that year, the nomination was stolen from me." He explained how that happened in detail, then went on to relate his decision to run as a third-party candidate for the Progressive Party. Yes, he said he knew that that gave the election to the Democrats. "Mr. Wilson was an intelligent man, a progressive, but he had a spine like a chocolate eclair."*
The final question was from a high school girl who wanted Mr. Roosevelt to talk about his children. Again, the man was "delighted," for it was a subject dear to his heart. His eldest, Alice, was fifteen when they entered the White House, and the press immediately became enamored of her, referred to her as a "princess." The problem, TR said, was that when a teenage girl is told often enough that she is a princess, she begins to believe it. He talked at some length about Alice, including her recent marriage to Longworth. He talked briefly about each of the boys, then finally came to Quentin, the youngest. He related a tale in which Quentin entered the Oval Office with a snake which had been given him. He assured the boy that the reptile would become a part of their menagerie, but that Dad was really quite busy right now. "There are two Senators in the anteroom. Why don't you go introduce the snake to them? They speak its language."
Following the applause, Gib Young stepped out of his role and entertained some questions about himself. He made a statement which I thought significant, and which validates a notion I have long held about professional actors. He averred that life within his role was much more exciting than anything he might experience as his boring self. He gave examples. I believe that herein lies a motivation to live the actor's life. A person who lacks confidence in his own ability to live fully and happily as himself is the person most likely to become a thespian.
It was a great evening, time well-spent.
You may read Mr. Young's curriculum vitae here.
*Historians generally believe that the simile was first applied to McKinley, not Wilson, and that it was not TR who said it; though it is certain that Roosevelt heard it, for he did use similar expressions on occasion.