Hearst had San Simeon. Elvis had Graceland. Jefferson had Monticello. Great places, all. But for this Long Island kid, there’s one place that puts them all to shame:
Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill. There is no better place for a political junkie and lover of this Island to plug in and recharge batteries than TR’s crib.
Last week my batteries were indeed in need of recharging as I continue to bang my head against this recession and face the challenges (opportunities) that lay ahead. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t work very hard—I work a lot. There’s a difference. My job isn’t back-breaking and doesn’t callous my hands, but it does require a great deal of thought, patience and planning.
I walked out of the office in the early afternoon and caught the 2:30 p.m. tour at Sagamore Hill. A small motley crew made up of three home-schooled kids from Queens and their grandfather, an older couple from the RC (Rockville Centre) and I slowly walked through the home of the greatest public servant to ever hold the office of President of the United States. Our tour guide, Wayne, was knowledgeable and patient, taking time to quiz the children while giving a sly wink to the adults. Sagamore Hill and TR’s story are as familiar to me as an old pair of blue jeans and just as comforting. No matter how many times I visit, they never get old.
Comfort and inspiration were the great motivators behind this brief excursion as it is the season of my discontent—the time when political signs dot the landscape and poorly written campaign literature fills mailboxes. My tolerance pot simmers all year watching the buffoonery of our politicians; it comes to a rapid boil come the fall when they begin touting said buffoonery in their stupid ad campaigns. During the TR tour I found my thoughts wandering, imagining what would be different if Roosevelt were still here today.
The youngest man to hold the office, Roosevelt had a great deal of fight left in him after he exited office. But after being upset in a bid to reclaim the presidency in 1913, a taxing trip to the Amazon shortly thereafter and, finally, the death of his son Quentin in 1918, there was no fight left in “The Colonel.” Thankfully the place he called home and raised his remarkable family, and the place where he himself drew his final breath, has been preserved and maintained for us all. It’s the least we could do to honor the man who preserved more land than every other president combined.
I imagine he would be disgusted at the pace our government moves and how powerful the special-interest groups have become. Certainly he dealt with political acrimony in his day, but his power of persuasion and forceful manner provided cover for a mastery of compromise and negotiation. As an advocate for health insurance coverage in industry and worker’s compensation, we would have already had universal health care. The only difference is that it wouldn’t threaten to bankrupt the nation, because as the most famous trust-buster in American history he would have already broken the backs of Big Pharma and the insurance industry.
A prolific author, orator and raconteur, he would have been tickled by the surge in technology and would be tweeting and blogging like a madman. Sagamore Hill would be completely off the grid—geothermal, solar, you name it. Hell, the guy had his own windmill so he definitely would have upgraded to a turbine by now. I’d like to see the Town of Oyster Bay try and deny that permit.
Sigh. The great TR would have loved this age but feel dismayed and betrayed by the Republican Party of today. With so many conservatives holding what they call RINO (Republican In Name Only) hunts and eating themselves from within, he would no doubt confuse them with the Democrats. Now, more than ever, we could use a little more TR in the world. I’ll trade in RINO’s, donkeys and elephants for the chance to bring back the original Bull Moose.