Teddy Roosevelt: Trust Buster

A Look Back at Our Rough-Riding, Tough-Talking 26th President And His Long History of Busting Trusts: Emotional Trusts

At a summer retreat for politicians and industrialists, Roosevelt is paired up with oil baron John D. Rockefeller. In one of the ice-breaker activities, Rockefeller lets himself fall backwards, trusting that Roosevelt will catch him. Roosevelt instead steps aside and lets Rockefeller crash to the floor. “Bully!” he exclaims.

On his 48th birthday, financier J. P. Morgan comes home to find all the lights are out. Inside, his family, co-workers, and lifelong friends wait in the dark to surprise him. At the door, Morgan is intercepted by an inebriated Teddy Roosevelt, who bellows, “It’s a surprise party! Didn’t you notice all of the carriages parked outside? Bully!”

His wife bursts into tears. “But President Roosevelt,” she says, “You promised not to tell!”

“Poppycock!” guffaws Roosevelt, and boxes Morgan about the shoulders.

In 10th grade, Teddy Roosevelt has a “cool” teacher for his World Civilization class. He lets his students call him by his first name, always volunteers to chaperone school dances, and uses the honor system for grading. Every student gets to choose their own grade based on what they feel they earned over the course of the semester. Even though Roosevelt missed an entire month of school hunting big game in Africa, and did not do a lick of makeup work, he still claims that he deserves an “A.”

Much to the chagrin of the other students, the teacher changes his grading policy the very next year.

To facilitate the expansion of the American Navy, Teddy Roosevelt negotiates with Colombia in order to build a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After Colombia’s Senate rejects the land sale, Roosevelt backs a revolution in Panama, then makes a deal with the new government there. When Colombian leaders object, Roosevelt advises them to speak softer, and acquire bigger sticks. Further protests are silenced with the arrival of American troops, and a resounding “Bully!”