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Lesson 4


Meeting National Standards:

History Standard 2-A:
Evaluate the Roosevelt Administration's foreign policies through evaluation of the implementation of a decision.
History Standard 2-C:
Evaluate Wilson's Fourteen Points…and the national debate over treaty ratification and the League of Nations.
Historical Thinking Standard 3- Historical Analysis:
Compare TR's idea for a League of Peace with Wilson's League of Nations and explore reasons why TR supporters rejected Wilson's League.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will explore how TR's actions in international affairs reflect both points in his famous admonition to "Speak softly and carry a big stick"?
  2. Students will evaluate one of TR's efforts to solve international disputes through mediation.
  3. Students analyze reasons for political shifts in support or opposition to a program.

When discussing Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy, most people refer to his famous admonition to "Speak softly and carry a big stick," with most of the emphasis on the latter part of this famous quote. TR's idealization of the warrior, his enthusiasm as a big game hunter, and many of his own quotes provide fodder for the image of a leader itching for battle. However, an examination of his Presidential record in international relations provides an interesting picture of a world leader who, though prepared for battle at any time, eagerly but without fanfare, exhausted every peaceful route in solving international crises. Roosevelt set the standard for a man with power using that power in a thoughtful and careful manner. While building up the US Navy as his "Big Stick" he mediated the end of the Russo-Japanese War that threatened the delicate balance of power, and became the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. (He is the only American to hold both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor). He moved America from its traditional isolationism and made the nation an active and respected player on the international stage, mediating disputes over Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, and the Alaskan boundary issue. He raised the bar for world leaders, becoming the first head of state to submit a dispute to the Court of Arbitration at The Hague. A firm believer in international cooperation, he was again the first head of state to seek the convening of the Second Hague Conference. And he carried with him the desire to raise the prestige of others as he sought and won for Latin American equal status with the rest of the world and won adoption for the Drago Doctrine that forbade nations from using force in collecting foreign debts. At his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910, Roosevelt promoted the creation of an international League of Peace to "not only keep the peace among themselves, but to prevent, by force, if necessary, its being broken by others." TR's vision of a League of Peace was presented to the world almost a decade before Woodrow Wilson's famous Fourteen Points and the League of Nations included in the Versailles Treaty of 1919.

Lesson 4 Activities:

Analysis of a Peace Process:
Ask students to select one of the following:

  • Venezuela Crisis
  • Dominican Republic Dispute
  • Morocco Dispute
  • The Russo-Japanese War
  • Use of the Court of Arbitration at The Hague
  • The Second Hague Conference

Divide students into teams. Ask the students to analyze their selected topic and create a chart, noting the crisis to be addressed, the steps TR took in meeting the crisis, whose counsel he sought in working through the crisis, how he used or avoided the press in working through the crisis, and how he related to and dealt with other world leaders in seeking an ending to the crisis. By placing these charts side by side, students see a picture of a new kind of world leader with an awareness of world/political history, an appreciation for the political skills and leadership positions of others, and an awareness of the uses for a powerful press as he sought peaceful ends to events which, in the past, had always resulted in wars.

The League of Peace and The League of Nations:
As mentioned in the introduction above, TR suggested the formation of a League of Peace during his 1910 acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, several years before Wilson's League of Nations proposal. TR's acceptance speech promoted treaties of arbitration, development of the Hague Tribunal including the conferences and courts at The Hague, an international check on the growth of armaments, and the creation of the League of Peace. Considering his promotion for such an organization and his record for working with leaders, can students explain the fierce opposition by TR's Congressional friends and supporters to America participation in the League of Nations? Ask students to study the various arguments to the treaty as well as Wilson's role in drafting the document and pushing for its approval by Congress. Let students brainstorm to determine what went wrong.

The Theodore Roosevelt Association is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Tax Identification #13-449999.