Friday, September 17, 2010

Learning about Roosevelt

Today I participated in a Theodore Roosevelt symposium sponsored by the university (as I have done in past years, too).  In 1958, then-senator John F. Kennedy spoke on campus for a symposium that was part of a year-long celebration of Roosevelt's hundredth birthday.  In 2006, the university started hosting annual symposia dedicated to the study of Roosevelt (who lived for some time in this region, about which he once said, "I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota").  I'm no Roosevelt scholar, but the symposium sessions are always very accessible to lay persons and quite interesting, so I was pleased to attend those that fit into my schedule today.

This morning I attended a panel discussion of President Roosevelt's efforts to bring the United States out of isolationism and expand its presence in the world arena.  Three professors took turns speaking on three examples: Roosevelt's response to Russian pogroms (anti-Jewish riots), his military decisions regarding unrest in the Philippines, and his takeover of the Panama Canal project, which the French had begun but abandoned, but which Roosevelt saw through to completion.  Immediately thereafter, I enjoyed conversation with other attendees during dinner: salad; pasta with chicken, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and asparagus; and almond bars for dessert.

This afternoon I attended a presentation by Clay Jenkinson, who shared numerous examples of photographs that have been acquired by our university's Theodore Roosevelt Center, digitized, and added to its collection.  In 1903, Roosevelt took a months-long train ride throughout the country, in part to meet with the people and subtly campaign for re-election, and in part to deliver keynote addresses on various policies, to explore sites of natural beauty and promote conservationism, and to have some moments of vacation.  Jenkinson spoke about the trip overall and shared photos of Roosevelt's stops at various places, including his stops in North Dakota.  Roosevelt delivered one of his keynote speeches (on the Philippines) in Fargo; and in Medora, he reunited with his friends and neighbors from when he had lived in the area.  (They even brought him his old horse Manitou so that he could take one last ride, but the Secret Service wouldn't allow it!)

That presentation was followed by a delicious supper of pork with plum sauce (coincidence!), buttered carrots, sweet potato purée, and cheese cake for dessert.  The evening ended with a musical performance researched and conducted by the chair of our music department and performed by members of the music faculty and professional musicians from the area.  The professor selected music popular during the years that President Roosevelt held office: 1901-1909.  He even wrote arrangements of the music that stayed true to the way the songs would have been performed back then.  We heard marches by John Philip Sousa, piano rags (e.g., Scott Joplin), classical music by Claude Debussy, and popular songs such as "Shine On, Harvest Moon," "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree."  It was an educational delight!

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