Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Review: The Bully Pulpit by Goodwin

The Bully Pulpit is actually three stories in one: the biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and the history of McClure Magazine, the original investigative publication that Teddy labeled as “muckraker journalism.”

The writing is well done. I learned so much about these two former presidents. Taft served as Governor of the Philippines after the US defeated the Spaniards who colonized the Islands for centuries. I’m Filipino and this part of the book is the most eye-opening to me. Taft was an honorable and decent man who, along with his wife, truly valued the dignity of the Filipino people. He went out of his way to secure the way for Philippine independence. In return, the Filipino people revered and respected him.

I most specially loved reading the love notes they sent to and received from their wives. Jane Austen would have had a competition in Taft who wrote romantic notes to his wife Nellie:

While still pursuing her -
“I love you Nellie,” he declared. “I love you for all that you are. I love you for your noble consistent character . . . for all that you are, for all that you hope to be. . . . Oh how I will work and strive to be better and do better, how I will labor for our joint advancement if only you will let me. You will be my companion, my love and my life....My love for you grew out of a friendship, intimate and of long standing. That friendship of course was founded on a respect and admiration for your high character, your sweet womanly qualities and your intellectual superiority over any woman I know and for that quality in you which is called sympathy but I call it self forgetting companionableness. . . . Much as I should love to have you love me now and say so now, there is proud satisfaction I feel in that such a heart as yours can not be won in a moment.”

After a short separation -
“I can not tell you what a comfort it is to me to think of you as my wife and helpmeet,” he declared. “I measure every woman I meet with you and they are all found wanting. Your character, your independence, your straight mode of thinking, your quiet planning, your loyalty, your sympathy when I call for it (as I do too readily) your affection and love (for I know I have it) all these Darling make me happy only to think about them.”

William Taft talking to his father about his future wife:

“The more I knew her,” Will told his father, “the deeper grew my respect for her, the warmer my friendship until it unconsciously ripened into a feeling that she was indispensable to my happiness. . . . I know you will love her when you come to know her and will appreciate as I do her noble character and clear cut intellect and well informed mind. She has been teaching for three years and has been no expense at all to her father. She has done this without encouragement by her family who thought the work too hard for her because she chafed under the conventionalities of society which would keep a young lady only for evening entertainments. She wanted something to do in life. . . . Her eagerness for knowledge of all kinds puts me to shame. Her capacity for work is wonderful.”

Roosevelt said of his first wife, “It almost frightens me, in spite of my own happiness,” he revealed in his diary, “to think that perhaps I may not make her happy; but I shall try so hard; and if ever a man love woman I love her.”

To his second wife, Edith, “I do not think my eyes are blinded by affection,” the president told a friend, “when I say that she has combined to a degree I have never seen in any other woman the power of being the best of wives and mothers, the wisest manager of the household, and at the same time the ideal great lady and mistress of the White House.”

Romanticism aside, this is a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in early 20th century history.

My Grandpa, who served as a solider during WWII under the US Army, once said, “The Spaniards came and treated us like slaves. The Japanese came and treated us like animals. The Americans came and treated us like human beings with dignity.”

The book confirmed just as what my Grandpa said. America is guilty of many things, but it has been a champion for democracy and I have greatly benefited from that myself.

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