Roosevelt to share views on many topics
The multi-layered character of former President Theodore Roosevelt will share his disdain for America's isolationist policies and President Woodrow Wilson during the final Oklahoma Chautauqua performance in Lawton tonight.
Longtime Chautauqua scholar Doug Mishler portrays the outspoken, brash and larger-than-life statesman toward the end of his life, just after the United States entered World War I in 1918 less than a year before his death. While sickly, grieving over the death of his son and facing the prospect he'll never be in politics again, the man is still as brazen as ever.
"He's going to talk about almost anything," Mishler said. "We will hopefully lean toward the preparation for the war, the war itself, what the war meant, why the United States should have been involved in the war sooner and the evil of Woodrow Wilson."
There could not have been two men more diametrically opposed than Roosevelt and Wilson in regard to whether America should become involved in the Great War ravaging Europe. Wilson favored a more isolationist policy, steering the United States toward staying out of the conflict and letting the European powers settle their differences. Roosevelt, "the consummate gentleman," wanted the growing power that was America to put its foot down and do what was right in opposing Germany's invasion of Belgium.
"Theodore never thought you could be a great president unless you had a great conflict or a great war to fight," Mishler said. "When he was in office, he delayed the start of World War I in 1907 with a conference in Africa, when he kept the Italians, Germans, French and British from going to war over Africa. Once Germany invaded Belgium, though, he was very adamant they had to be punished. Wilson is in the White House at that time, and that galls Theodore."
Roosevelt saw Germany's invasion of Belgium as an act of barbarism that had to be addressed, lest the bullying go unchecked and consume the continent. He felt that if the United States had the power to intervene and use its weight to protect those who needed protection, it was the country's responsibility to do so.