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Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library

Help build the presidential library and involve students in its creation

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Building Roosevelt's Elkhorn Cabin

It Started With a Buffalo...

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Building Roosevelt's Elkhorn Cabin

The project to rebuild Roosevelt's Elkhorn cabin on the campus of Dickinson State University begins.

It Started With a Buffalo...

Clay Jenkinson, Theodore Roosevelt Humanities Scholar, describes this historic moment for North Dakota students to contribute to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Audio Transcript

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Clay Jenkinson: Hello everyone, I'm Clay Jenkinson. I'm a historical consultant at the great new Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library that we're building in southwestern North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt came here in 1883 to kill a buffalo. He got his buffalo after a very difficult two week hunt. But in the meantime, he fell in love with the badlands of the Little Missouri River Valley of western North Dakota and decided to set part of his life here. In the end, he had two ranches: the Maltese Cross Ranch south of today's Medora and the Elkhorn Ranch about 35 miles north of Medora. It was here in western North Dakota that Theodore became the larger than life figure that we think about when we think about the Great White Fleet or settling the Russo Japanese War or his safari in Africa or his time on the River of Doubt in South America. Of course, that's the Roosevelt of Mt. Rushmore. Presidents from Herbert Hoover until today have presidential libraries. In fact, they're required by law to deposit their papers in a presidential library in a place of their choice. Barack Obama's library will be in South Chicago. President Clinton's library is in Little Rock. President Reagan's library is out in the West Coast in Simi Valley, but Theodore Roosevelt does not have a presidential library because he served before that idea was created.

Some of the greater presidents are getting their libraries now - Abraham Lincoln in Springfield; Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia. We decided a couple of years ago that we would build a national Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Dickinson, North Dakota. It's an exciting project. It's going to be one of the greatest cultural institutions on the northern Great Plains. We think it might be the best of all the presidential libraries, because unlike anybody else, we have Theodore Roosevelt who was one of the most strenuous men who ever lived. He was one of the happiest, most productive, and certainly one of the greatest outdoors men in American history. We will be probably open this facility in the year 2020. We're going to break ground in the fall of 2018.

Here's where you come in. All of these museums and libraries have programming that involves K-12 students and college students and we are asking you to help us conceive of the museum. We want you to give us ideas about what it should look like. What kind of architecture should it have? What should be contained in it? What sort of artifacts? What sort of stories we should tell in the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library? What sort of statues should we commission for it? What sorts of programming should we have? How can we make the library available for K-12 and college students in a way that really helps you do your work and learn more about North Dakota history or the history of the United States for that matter?

Here's how you can help. We want to launch an essay contest where you write about your favorite Roosevelt stories, or Roosevelt's impact on North Dakota, or Roosevelt's achievement as the 26th president of the United States. We'd be happy to help you prepare history day presentations of every sort. If you want to portray in your school Theodore Roosevelt or a series of you portray Theodore Roosevelt, we'd be happy to give you information about how to do that. We can supply you with primary source documents so that you can examine the actual letters that Roosevelt wrote including illustrated letters to his children, the letters he received, cartoons, newspaper clippings, video, audio, and whatever you might need that we have already digitized at the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. We would be happy to supply guidelines about how to use those primary source documents to increase your understanding of North Dakota and American history.

We also want you to do more fun things. What's your favorite TR story? What sort of statue should we commission for this facility? What should it look like? What should the architecture look like? What sort of field trips and outdoor activities? Roosevelt, more than any other president, believed in what he called the strenuous life. At a time when students are thought to be more sedentary and less active than before, you could help design a fitness activity program for your school of hikes, camping trips, field studies of animals as well as the grasses and trees of the Great Plains. In short, there's a wide variety of things that you can do to help us produce the greatest presidential library in America. And one that is, from the beginning, designed for students like you, not just to participate in, but to help design and to a certain degree, even help to build.

There's a PDF that will come along with this presentation. We feel greatly honored to be part of this. We want you to help us make the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library something that all North Dakotans can be proud of and particularly, the young people of North Dakota. You can go to our websites, or Your teachers and administrators can help point the way, but we want your help and we hope that you will really think creatively so that this can be a presidential library that all North Dakotans will be thrilled to call their own. Thanks for listening. I'm Clay Jenkinson and we'll see you in western North Dakota.

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