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When Trumpets Call

Theodore Roosevelt After the White House
By Patricia O'Toole

Reading Group Guide

    When Trumpets Call: Questions for Discussion
    1.Author Patricia O'Toole examines what happens to a powerful man when he loses power. Roosevelt was only fifty when he left the White House, and when the press raised questions about the proper role of ex-presidents, he said he could not comment on his predecessors, "but so far as it is concerned with this president, you can say that the United States need do nothing with the ex-president. I will do all the doing that is going to be done myself." What does this reveal about the man?
    2. Roosevelt greatly expanded the powers of the presidency. He said "while president I have been president emphatically." In what ways did he expand the job?
    3.How does Theodore Roosevelt's Square Deal compare with his fifth cousin Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal? The book states that TR's philosophy of government "was a secular version of the lessons of Sunday School." How so?
    4.TR counted the acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone as his greatest presidential achievement. How did this one act benefit the United States? How did it affect U.S. relations with Central America?
    5. TR gave unprecedented access to reporters. How did he use the press to his advantage? Compare the muckraking of Roosevelt's day to modern day tabloid journalism. How did his relationship with the press change after his presidency?
    6.What's the significance of the epigraph from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses": "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use! As tho' to breathe were life."
    7. The trumpet is a recurring image in this book. What's the significance?
    8. The author asserts that Roosevelt's "intense, almost sacred aspiration to heroism started at home, with the idolization of his father -- the finest man he ever knew, he would often say." How did TR's childhood and his relationship to his father temper his personality? How would you characterize his relationships with his own sons? How did being the son of Theodore Roosevelt affect Theodore Jr., Kermit, Archie, and Quentin? What differences do you see between his relationships with his sons and with his daughters, Alice and Ethel?
    9. Roosevelt was fond of saying, "Walk softly, but carry a big stick." After his presidency, how successful do you think he was in practicing this philosophy?
    10. One of TR's more adventurous endeavors after the White House life was a safari with his son, Kermit. Discuss the apparent conflict between TR's conservationist ideals and his "overkill" in Africa. How did he reconcile the two? What are the differences between TR's "conquer or be conquered" philosophy and Winston Churchill's thoughts on Africa?
    11. TR decided that his handpicked successor, President William Howard Taft, was "singularly deaf to the voice of the people." How did Taft's presidency differ from Roosevelt's? If you had been in Archie Butt's position, would you have stayed on in the Taft White House, or would you have resigned?
    12. What do you think of the reasons TR gave for his decision to challenge Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912? What do you see as TR's main motive for seeking a third term -- patriotism or personal ambition? How do you see the rivalry between La Follette and Roosevelt?
    13. The book states that the election of 1912 was "no ordinary election. It was a moment of transfiguration in American politics, with the Democrats fashioning themselves into the party of liberal ideals and the Republicans pointing their craft toward the far shores of conservatism." How have liberalism and conservatism changed since their day? TR formed a new party, the National Progressive Party, to continue his run for the presidency. How did it differ from the Republicans and the Democrats? What do you make of TR's refusal of the Bull Moose nomination in 1916?
    14. Two millionaires, George Perkins and Frank Munsey, bankrolled TR's new party. How did they influence its philosophy? How would you compare campaign finance in their day and in ours?
    15. How did TR feel about the suffrage movement and the "Negro question"? How did his feelings about women's rights contrast with his feelings about the women in his family?
    16. Roosevelt's celebrity turned out to be a liability rather than an asset in the 1912 campaign. Why? If women had had the vote in all forty-eight states, do you think TR would have won? Why?
    17. Discuss the differences between Roosevelt's policies on war and Wilson's "watchful waiting." According to the author, Roosevelt "the boy had overcome his weakness, but Roosevelt the man never lost his horror of it." How does this relate to his feelings about Woodrow Wilson and Wilson's policy of neutrality in the war?
    18. If you had been President Wilson, would you have approved TR's request to raise troops and take them to France once the U.S. entered World War I? Why? Would you have allowed TR to play a civilian role in the American war effort? Why?
    19. Quentin, TR's youngest son, was killed in the war. How did that affect TR's feelings about war?
    20. What thoughts do the struggles and achievements of TR's post-presidential years give you about your own retirement?

    Enhance Your Book Club
    One-stop shopping for everything you always wanted to know about Theodore Roosevelt: theodoreroosevelt.org/modern/exploreliving.htm
    Many of TR's out-of-print books are available for downloading: gutenberg.org/browse/authors/r#a729

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