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Teddy Roosevelt had the last word

Wikimedia Commons

Former United States President Theodore Roosevelt.


Although short in stature, Teddy Roosevelt was really a giant of a man. Nothing could stop him when he made up his mind to do something. Take that day in 1912, for instance. Not even a bullet could keep him from finishing the job he had set out to do.

The date was October 12. There was a three-way race for the White House, and former President Theodore Roosevelt was on the stump for the Progressives or Bull Moose Party, as it was popularly known.

Running on the Democratic ticket was the Princeton professor, Woodrow Wilson, and for the Republicans, the incumbent, William Howard Taft.

The Progressives had moved very quickly to kick off the campaign by putting Roosevelt out on the trail. That’s why he was in Milwaukee on that fateful day. On his way to the auditorium where he was to speak, the former President was shot in the chest at close range by John Shrank. The gunman had held a grudge against Roosevelt from the days when he was the Police Commissioner of New York City.

Fortunately for Roosevelt the bullet first went through the thick manuscript from which he was preparing to speak, before it struck his metal eyeglass case. The two obstructions reduced the velocity of the bullet before it entered his body.

Doctor’s examined T.R. and ordered him to the hospital at once, but he steadfastly refused to be denied his opportunity to speak to the crowd. He proceeded to the rostrum to give the speech with the bullet still in his chest.

He began his oration with the following words: “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

Well, Roosevelt didn’t win the election of 1912. Despite this speech, he finished second. Nevertheless, he sure made history. Today it is hard to imagine the kind of tenacity that would keep a candidate pressing flesh with a bullet in his chest.

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