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Historians Discuss Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – During nearly the century that has past since his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt has inspired dozens of historical examinations and biographies. Many of the people who have penned them were in Buffalo this weekend. The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site hosted a three day symposium called "The Big Stick and the Square Deal: The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt."

It was a who's who list of America's most sought after historians, authors and presidential scholars. Among them, Pulitzer Prize winning authors Edmund Morris and James MacGregor Burns and many others. But why were they here? And why now?

Douglas Brinkley is the Director for the Eisenhower Center for American Studies, and one of the symposium's presenters. Brinkley says it's fitting that an in-depth discussion of Theodore Roosevelt happen in the place where his legacy began.

"Buffalo was the center of the world for a period of days after William McKinley was assassinated," Brinkley said. "At the Pan American Exposition, a crazed anarchist fired two bullets.

"Theodore Roosevelt was in the Adirondacks at the time. He got very primitive telegraph cables, telling him McKinley had been shot and had to make the journey here to Buffalo."

Brinkley says from that day on, the rough rider blazed a trail unlike any other president before him. Teddy was one of the early conservationists, establishing the national forest service, and legislation to protect our national parks and monuments. Brinkley says these radical notions are what best define his presidency.

"He was first and foremost a believer that when you found these jewels in America, that they had to be preserved for parks," Brinkley continued. "He believed the American spirit was based on space. If you lost those wilderness areas, he believed you would be losing something very essential for the embodiment of what it means to be an American."

The centenniel commemoration was originally planned for last year, the true one hundredth anniversary of Roosevelt's innauguration. However, the symposium was postponed and reeorganized after the September 11th tradgey.