Perception vs. Reality: Dispelling the Belief of President Theodore Roosevelt as a War Hawk

Roshan R. Varghese, History, Butler High School

Final Unit(pdf)   Implementing Teaching Standards(pdf)


The commonly-held beliefs concerning President Theodore Roosevelt are of a leader who consistently evoked hawkish tendencies towards war. It is often taught and discussed in our public educational system that Roosevelt acted often as a “bully” in foreign policy decisions, using the United States military as a means to further American imperialism and American might. Through our exposure to the Spanish-American War, the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and the manifestation of “big stick diplomacy” with the building of the Panama Canal, the American people are often enamored with the perception that President Roosevelt acted ruthlessly towards nations, he felt were inferior and/or could easily be manipulated to achieve the desires of the American republic. However, this Curriculum Unit will argue that many of these perceptions are in fact that, perceptions. In reality, Roosevelt was a man that often used diplomacy that promoted peace and cooperation, while also furthering the advance of the industrialized world. In doing so, he is as acclaimed for becoming the first American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize, as he did so for mediating a peace between Russia and Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and the preservation of millions of acres of American landscape through his efforts to establish the National Park System.