“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”
Roosevelt certainly practiced what he preached. Thus, in my previous post, I described him as “indefatigable”. Let me remind you what all he packed into his short sixty-one years of earthly life…
A graduate of Harvard University, he wrote and published over 25 books. An articulate orator as well, he once delivered a 90 minute speech right after being shot in his chest, and before ever going to the hospital! He was a cattle rancher and a big game hunter (both in the western U.S. and on African safaris). He also led an intrepid expedition to the headwaters of the Amazon River.
He served as Police Commissioner of New York City, as a member of the National Guard, as the Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Navy, and as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U. S. Cavalry, where he famously led his famous charge up San Juan Hill.
He was elected Governor of the State of New York, as well as Vice President, and then later on served as the 26th President of the United States of America. As President, among other things, he established the U.S. Park Service, the U. S. Forest Service, and led in the building of the Panama Canal. He also oversaw the construction of the world’s largest Navy and sailed it around the world to announce that America was now a world power.
For his accomplishments, he has received many accolades, including the Medal of Honor, the Nobel Prize, and even had his likeness carved on Mt. Rushmore. He also has a United States Naval Aircraft Carrier named for him.
And yet, ironically, in spite of all the things he did by which he is remembered, that one thing with which he is most often associated came about as a result of the one thing which he did not do. Allow me to explain.
Do you have a Teddy Bear in your house? More than likely, you do. In fact, if you have more than one child, as my wife and I do, then you have likely had more than one Teddy Bear down through the years. And we all owe this to the one thing that Teddy Roosevelt did not do!
An article titled “The Real Teddy Bear Story” (posted on the website of the Theodore Roosevelt Association at www.theodoreroosevelt.org) tells us how the famed “Teddy Bear”, so closely associated with President Roosevelt, actually originated:
How did toy bears come to be named after President Theodore Roosevelt?
It all started with a hunting trip President Roosevelt took in 1902 in Mississippi at the invitation of Mississippi Governor, Andrew H. Longino. After three days of hunting, other members of the party had spotted bears, but not Roosevelt.
Now what? The President's bear hunt would be a failure! The next day, the hunt guides tracked down an old black bear that the dogs had trailed quite a distance and attacked. The guides tied the bear to a willow tree and called for the President. Here was a bear for him to shoot!
But Roosevelt took one look at the old bear and refused to shoot it. He felt doing so would be unsportsmanlike. However, since it was injured and suffering, Roosevelt ordered that the bear be put down to end its pain. Word of this hit newspapers across the country, and political cartoonist Clifford Berryman picked up on the story, drawing a cartoon showing how President Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear while hunting in Mississippi.
The original cartoon, which ran in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902, shows Roosevelt standing in front. The guide and bear are in the background, and they’re about the same size. Later, similar cartoons appeared, but the bear was smaller and shaking with fear. This bear cub then appeared in other cartoons Clifford Berryman drew throughout Roosevelt’s career. That connected bears with President Roosevelt.
The Teddy Bear tie came when a Brooklyn, NY candy shop owner, Morris Michtom, saw Clifford Berryman’s original cartoon of Roosevelt and the bear and had an idea. He put in his shop window two stuffed toy bears his wife had made. Michtom asked permission from President Roosevelt to call these toy bears "Teddy's bears". The rapid popularity of these bears led Michtom to mass-produce them, eventually forming the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.
At about the same time, a Germany company, Steiff, started making stuffed bears. Margaret Steiff earned her living by sewing, first by making stuffed elephants, then other animals. In 1903, an American saw a stuffed bear she had made and ordered many of them. These bears, which also came to be called Teddy Bears, made the international connection.
More than a century later, teddy bears have never lost popularity, and all can be traced to that one hunting trip in Mississippi.
I share this with you today because each of us will eventually come to the end of this life. And when that time comes, we are accustomed to think that we will each be remembered for what all we have done.
But let me pose another perspective today. Could it be that we might also be remembered as much for what all we did not do?
When given the opportunity to do what was good, what was right, what was praiseworthy, did you do these things? If you did, that is wonderful! But what about all the times when you were given the opportunity to do those things which were not good, which were not right, which were not commendable? Did you do these things? Or did you say “No, I will not undertake any such action which is clearly beneath the level of dignity expected of me!”?
The simple truth is that virtue not only consists of doing what is good, right, and decent, but also of not doing what is bad, wrong, and indecent!
Little wonder then that the Holy Bible spends as much time admonishing us about what not to do as about what to do. Thus, the same Book that tells us: “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments.” (Psalm 112:1) also says “”Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1).
Like two sides of a coin, these two approaches to life - what we choose to do and what we choose not to do - go hand in hand! They are equally important, for one cannot effectively do one without effectively not doing the other.
In light of this, I leave you with these two questions... When you come to the end of your life, for what will you be remembered? Just as important, when you come to the end of your life, for what will you not be remembered?
TEDDY BEAR STORY: