PIQUA — Teddy Roosevelt, one of America’s most beloved presidents, will be speaking in Piqua, when the Johnston Farm Friends Council presents “An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt,” performed by scholar/actor Gene Worthington, April 27, at 7:30 p.m., in the Fort Piqua Hotel ballroom.
“Roosevelt” will share his observations on American life and politics in what observers have described as “Teddy Roosevelt recreated.”
During his public life, Roosevelt made a number of campaign stops throughout Ohio. Traveling by train, Roosevelt would often make a dozen whistle stops in the same day, usually speaking from the observation car’s rear platform, but occasionally from the steps of the local courthouse or other imposing building in the center of town.
For example, on May 16, 1912, he made whistle stops in Greenville, Bradford, Piqua, Sidney, Lima, Defiance, North Baltimore and Toledo. The previous day, Roosevelt gave speeches in Kenton, Elyria, Oberlin, Bellevue, Springfield, Norwalk, Sandusky, Fremont, Fostoria, Findlay, Bellefontaine, Urbana, Xenia and Dayton. On May 17, 1912, Roosevelt gave speeches in Ironton, Chillicothe, Portsmouth, Jackson, Athens, Nelsonville, Logan, Lancaster and Columbus.
One of his most memorable speeches was delivered, Oct. 14, 1912. An unemployed saloonkeeper shot the former president and Progressive Party candidate outside a Milwaukee hotel. Rather than allowing himself to be rushed to the hospital, Roosevelt insisted on delivering his scheduled 90-minute speech.
His lengthy prepared remarks, folded inside his breast pocket, undoubtedly helped to save his life. Theodore Roosevelt’s opening line on that occasion was hardly remarkable for a presidential campaign speech: “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible.”
His second line, however, was a bombshell. “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” The horrified audience in the Milwaukee Auditorium gasped as the former president unbuttoned his vest to reveal his bloodstained shirt. Ladies in the front row fainted as blood oozed from the wound.
“It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,” the wounded candidate assured them. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bullet-riddled, 50-page speech. Holding up his prepared remarks, which had two big holes blown through each page, Roosevelt continued.
“Fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet—there is where the bullet went through—and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”
X-rays taken after the campaign event showed the bullet lodged against Roosevelt’s fourth right rib on an upward path to his heart. Fortunately, the projectile had been slowed by his dense overcoat, steel-reinforced eyeglass case and the 50-page speech squeezed into his inner right jacket pocket.
Although his appearances in Piqua, Sidney and Bellefontaine drew large crowds, they were the typical campaign crowds. Fortunately, there was no violence connected with any of his stops in the Miami Valley.
Worthington has portrayed historical characters in the Chautauqua style for more than 30 years. This is a humanities program in which a scholar/actor brings to life a character from American history.
Worthington has served as the artistic director of the Historic Fayette Theater in Fayetteville, West Virginia, for the past 20 years. During that time, he has directed more than 30 productions, served as technical director for many of the shows and has performed on the stage. His most memorable roles include Morrie in “Tuesdays with Morrie,” the troll in “Jack and the Giant,” the sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood,” the director in “Play On,” and Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”
Seats for “An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt” can be reserved at $25 each by calling 937-773-2522). Tickets for members of the Johnston Farm Friends Council or the Ohio History Connection are available for $20 each.