|How can one person make our world a better place?|
Every individual is unique and has talents that can help to make the world a better place. It’s just a matter of discovering one’s strengths and then using them to their best purpose. Children can explore the unique talents of a variety of people—artists, scientists, educators, inventors, hospital workers, fire fighters, police officers, political activists, presidents, and even children like themselves—and how these individuals have used their talents to improve their community and the world in general.
What Primary Sources Can Tell Us about Many Special People
Peoples’ special talents are celebrated and memorialized in a variety of ways.
Cartoon of Teddy Roosevelt and a Teddy Bear
Even as President, Theodore Roosevelt used to go on camping and hunting trips. But given his public role, he had a lot more people watching him than he ever had before! During a bear hunting trip, after no bears were seen for three days, the members of Roosevelt’s group started to get worried. They didn’t want the President of the United States to look bad, coming back empty-handed! Finally an old bear was found and followed. The old animal grew tired. It was clear he would be a very easy mark if the president wanted. Roosevelt would have none of it, though. Shooting a bear in that condition was not sport or what bear hunting was all about, he insisted. Instead, given that the animal was clearly in pain, Roosevelt had one of his entourage shoot it and put it out of its misery. Later, hearing about the incident, a shopkeeper named Morris Michtom took two stuffed bears his wife had made and placed them in the window of his shop. Then he asked the President’s permission to call them “Teddy’s bears.” It was from this, that the “teddy bear” was born.
Theodore Roosevelt before His Presidency
Theodore Roosevelt had an amazing life. Born in New York City in 1858, he developed a love of natural history at a very young age. Though he suffered from asthma, he took up exercise and became fairly athletic as he grew older. He even boxed with a professional fighter in 1904—though he lost sight in one eye from doing so. He also developed a love of horse riding and took part in numerous camping and hunting trips.
Roosevelt followed his conscience in political matters. As a member of the state assembly in Albany, New York, Roosevelt won respect by exposing a corrupt judge. After losing both his wife (who died in giving birth to their daughter Alice) and his mother on the same day, Roosevelt headed west and spent two years working as a cowboy. During that time, he also completed a biography of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton and wrote a four-volume series called The Winning of the West. During his life he published many other books, too. While out west, Roosevelt also helped capture three thieves. He took six days to escort them at gunpoint to the authorities. Later, back in New York, he was appointed New York’s police commissioner. In that role, he also earned a reputation for uncovering corruption and aiding reformers.
Roosevelt’s first opportunity to play a role in national politics came in 1896 when he was appointed assistant secretary of the Navy, which he helped to strengthen. He resigned his Navy post in 1898 to serve as a lieutenant colonel of the First U.S. Voluntary Cavalry in the Spanish-American War. There he organized a volunteer troop that became known as the “Rough Riders.” The group’s exploits in Cuba helped to make Roosevelt a national hero, ultimately leading to his election as Governor of New York. From there he was nominated in 1900 as William McKinley’s vice-presidential running mate. He was elected Vice President ten days after his 42nd birthday. Less than one year later, Roosevelt became President upon McKinley’s assassination.
Celebrating Special People with Political Cartoons
1. Show the children a photograph of President Theodore Roosevelt, and tell the children that he was this country’s 26th president, first taking office after the assassination of President William McKinley. One of Roosevelt’s favorite expressions was a West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Ask the children to suggest what they think this proverb means. Then explain that, to Roosevelt, it meant that when dealing with foreign nations, he could be gentle and “speak softly”—as he knew that he had the strength of a powerful nation behind him. Whether it was by using this policy or not, Roosevelt did have many great achievements in his lifetime.
2. With a show of hands, ask the children how many of them own, or once had, a teddy bear. Tell the children that, believe it or not, the teddy bear is named after President “Teddy” Roosevelt. Distribute a copy of the cartoon of Roosevelt with a teddy bear to each child. (This can also be found on page 16 of your Primary Sources Handbook.) Then share with the children the story of Roosevelt and the teddy bear, provided above. Discuss why the artist may have wanted to make a cartoon, based on this story.
3. Tell the children that Roosevelt also did many other great things in his lifetime. Organize the children into pairs or small groups, and assign each to one of these achievements:
(If necessary, you can also select from other achievements offered above from before Roosevelt came into office. Or, if you like, this activity can be modified to work with any other “special people” that the children are studying.)
4. Distribute art supplies (crayons, markers, and drawing paper) to the children. Then challenge the children to create their own “political cartoon” related to the “fun fact” they were assigned. To do so, have them consider the answers to these questions:
5. After offering the children an opportunity to share their artwork with the class, put together a “comic book” of children’ “political cartoons.”
Additional Primary Sources
Image credits: a. © Squared Studios/Getty Images; b. Manay