(Review) Theodore Roosevelt and The Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey

Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Nonfiction, Theodore Roosevelt biography, American history, Spanish-American War
Pages: 512
Source: Free copy from Jon Knokey and Author Marketing Experts in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Barnes and Noble

Website for book: Making of American Leadership. 

In the preface, the casket of Abraham Lincoln is in route through New York City. It will journey through several states on its way to Illinois for burial. People gather beside the roads to pay their respects to the fallen 16th president. Young Theodore Roosevelt, and his brother, Elliott, are spectators of the funeral procession. Their view is from a second floor window. They are viewing a critical moment in American history. Later, Theodore will spark his own pivotal moments in history. Theodore was an unlikely leader, he had health problems as a youth, and he was known as an arrogant fellow in college. Further, he came from a wealthy background affording him to live in luxury and to associate with the upper class of people. However, several responsibilities and life experiences molded him into a man who became a capable leader,
But it was not the charge up the hill that put him in the White House. It was his ability to lead those from different backgrounds that made him president of the United States. He knew how to lead the Fifth Avenue clubman of New York as well as the frontiersman from the West. And when he got the opportunity to lead them together, he healed the scars of the Civil War and united a nation around a new vision: America as a superpower. Page xiii
The book is divided into three parts: "foundation," "ruling," and "leading."
The book stops at the point where Theodore Roosevelt takes the oath of office as the 26th president of the United States.
Highlights of the book is Theodore's childhood and youth, personal life, Civil Service Commission, term as New York City Police Commissioner, the training of the Rough Riders, and the Spanish-American War.
A strong endnotes and bibliography is included.

My Thoughts:
When I read a biography, I am hoping the character will come alive as a flesh and blood person. I've read biographies before where the characters are academic and cold. In Theodore Roosevelt and The Making of American Leadership, Theodore Roosevelt lives and breathes.
Additional reasons for giving this book 5 stars for excellent:

  • Theodore Roosevelt is dimensional. I learned of his strengths and weaknesses. He was a complicated man to pin down as one distinct personality. After reading the book, I see him as a dynamic man with moments of passion and activity. He is a man of vision and idea. He is a man who has the strong ability to befriend a person of any rank, culture, race, or socioeconomic class.  However, he is a man who can be stoic, withdrawing during periods of depression.
  • Theodore Roosevelt is a hero for all people who have wrestled with a disability. He had a childhood illness, was weak in physicality, and possibly had a depressive health condition. 
  • He was a voracious reader. He is a man after mine own heart. 
  • He was unafraid to get dirty. He worked alongside his soldiers. He ate when they ate. Slept where they slept. 
  • Life experiences transformed him, they "made" him. He did not give up, but persevered through hardships to the next step and then the next step. He was bully! 
  • If I could visually see Theodore. I am sure my eyes would not want to turn-away. Knokey has captured this essence of Theodore by keeping my attention from the first page to the last page. 
  • He was a person who wanted to "know" people. He was unafraid and unhindered to grasp the hand of a working class man. He did not place himself on a level above or below. 
  • One of the aims of the book, and it is reflected in the title, is "The Making of American Leadership." I believe this book should be required reading for those who are at this moment in American history wanting to become the next president. Isn't this the kind of president we want? A person who hears what the American people are saying (both listening with the ears, and hearing with the mind and heart), and will execute just action (not sweep away those things that are not beneficial politically.)

Links for further reading:
White House
Article from The Atlantic: How Teddy Roosevelt Invented Spin
Theodore Roosevelt Association

Buffalo soldiers who participated in Spanish-American War.