Program 18: TR and Wilson
Douglas Brinkley with Donald L. Miller
Narrator: America at the turn of the century. The beginning of its rise
as a global power. The clash between capitalism and labor at home. The threat
of communism abroad.
Miller: And along comes a guy like Roosevelt, you know, and I think he
takes over the country at a time when a lot of people thought it was flying
Brinkley: Well, or coming together. Roosevelt came in due to the
assassination of McKinley.
Brinkley: The connection between Roosevelt and Wilson would be: how are
we behaving in the world community? What are we up to? Are we imperialists?
Narrator: Or are we making the world safe for democracy? "Two Faces of
Power" today on A Biography of America.
Faces of Power
Brinkley: Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the "Warrior" and the
"Minister," who served as the twenty-sixth and twenty-eighth presidents of the
United States, were the most dynamic political leaders America had seen since
the Civil War. Together, in fact, they personify the United States' rise to
power at the turn of the twentieth century.
Between the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the accession of Theodore
Roosevelt, the White House was occupied by a series of mostly mediocre men --
Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester
Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, Democrat Grover Cleveland, and William McKinley.
Given their lack of distinction, it's little wonder that from 1864 to 1900,
Congress was the dominant branch of the U.S. government and the presidency
diminished in importance.
All that changed on September 6, 1901, when President William McKinley was
shot. He died 8 days later, leaving the United States leaderless for the
twelve hours it took to locate Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who was
camping high in the Adirondacks.
He arrived in Buffalo after a wild all-night carriage ride to take the Oath of
Office only a few feet from where McKinley lay dead. Roosevelt wrote to a
friend that this was a dreadful way to become president, then added, "but it
would be a worse thing to be morbid about it."