‘A Great and Permanent Amusement’

Teddy Roosevelt, U.S. President 1901-1909, in rowing kit at Harvard c. 1877. As a child, Roosevelt suffered from asthma. His father recommended physical activity to counter this and Theodore developed a lifelong dedication to rowing and other exercise.
Teddy Roosevelt, U.S. President 1901-1909, in rowing kit at Harvard c. 1877. As a child, Roosevelt suffered from asthma. His father recommended physical activity to counter this and Theodore developed a lifelong dedication to rowing and other exercise.

21 January 2017

Tim Koch writes:

Yesterday, 20 January 2017, was the inauguration of ‘the one selected as commander’ as the 45th President of the United States. Preferring not to look to the future, I have decided to look back at a piece that I wrote for the U.S. election day in 2012.

Possibly the last* U.S. President who had anything to say on the subject (of rowing) was Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (1858-1919) who was held office between 1901 and 1909. He was a sickly child who became a strong and athletic adult by wholeheartedly embracing ‘manly pursuits’. As well as the 26th President, he was a soldier, boxer, hunter, naturalist, explorer and sportsman. He was also a ‘Progressive Republican’ and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. In more recent years some have looked beyond the caricature of the man and have held that he was one of the great U.S. Presidents.

In his autobiography, Roosevelt had this to say about rowing:

at Oyster Bay [his holiday home] our great and permanent amusements were rowing and sailing: I do not care for the latter and I am fond of the former. I suppose it sounds archaic, but I cannot help thinking that people with motor boats miss a great deal. If they would only keep to rowboats or canoes, and use oar or paddle themselves, they would get infinitely more benefit… But I rarely took exercise merely as exercise. Primarily I took it because I liked it…

Roosevelt at the oars on Oyster Bay.
Roosevelt at the oars on Oyster Bay.

Roosevelt’s views on exercise and its benefit to the nation were summarised in a speech he gave in 1899 titled The Strenuous Life.

*G.R.B. comments: While Tim is probably right about Teddy Roosevelt being a President to have an opinion about rowing (and who could still actively row while he was in the White House), I believe, though, that it was Teddy’s fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, ‘FDR’ (1882-1945), who was the last President of the United States (1933-1945) who could have an opinion on rowing. As a student, at Groton School in Massachusetts, FDR rowed. In a famous 1897 letter, the 15-year-old wrote home to his parents about a prominent visitor to the school: ‘Mr. Lehmann, the English coach, gave us an informal talk on rowing… as you probably know, he is about the greatest authority on rowing in the world.’ FDR continued to Harvard, but he did not row there. Instead, he became an avid sailor. His 25-foot sloop Vireo is in the collection of Mystic Seaport. There is a photograph showing FDR with family and friends sailing in Vireo. The day after this photograph was taken, in 1921, FDR was stricken by polio and would never be able to sail again. However, he continued to be interested in rowing, and both his sons James and Franklin Jr., rowed at Groton School and at Harvard.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., one of FDR’s sons – Harvard Crew Captain (1938). It was said that ‘He had his father’s looks, his speaking voice, his smile, his charm, his charisma’.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., one of FDR’s sons, rowed at Harvard. It was said that ‘He had his father’s looks, his speaking voice, his smile, his charm, his charisma’.

Tim adds:

The apparently permanently naked rowers of Warwick University Boat Club in the UK have sent President Trump a message urging tolerance and understanding for all – plus a copy of their latest nude calendar. You and Donald can watch the boys making their plea on Vimeo.

It seems that Trump (or someone sounding a lot like him) does row – and ‘tweets’ about it @TrumpRows

Some examples:

#TrumpUniversity would’ve had the best university Crew. Phenomenal Crew!!! Huskies wouldn’t have stood a chance! @UW_Rowing           

The only thing faker than @CNN reporting is Rob Waddell’s obviously FAKE 2k record. I am the fastest, he lost. Sad! 

I never leave my oarlock open and I will NEVER leave America open! #Wall

They could catch #Hillary deleting emails, but you know what they can’t catch? MY CATCHES! My catches are so quick, NOBODY CAN CATCH THEM!

Who said that the problem with political jokes are that they get elected?

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