Friday, April 24, 2015

Civic Hacker Profile: Theodore Roosevelt

Reading and thinking about what famous American civic hackers did can help us understand some of the ways we can do civic hacking in 2015 even if we aren't computer programmers and don't write code. That's why two founders of America, Hamilton and Jefferson, were featured in posts earlier this week.

A third high-profile American civic hacker was Theordore Roosevelt. His roles and actions in various government-affected areas improved the lives of those governed in quite a few ways. In honor of the widespread positive impact he had on the lives of millions of American citizens, the Borglums carved Roosevelt's face on a mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota (their civic hack for America). Below are just a few of the examples of Roosevelt's civic hacks.

Theodore Roosevelt held numerous civil service positions including NYC police commissioner, Governor of New York and Asst Secy of Navy. He was a Lt. Colonel and formed the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment a.k.a. Rough Riders 1898 to fight in the Spanish-American war. His most famous military action was leading his Rough Riders in their charge up San Juan Hill. Roosevelt remembered the battle that day as "the great day of my life." For his role in that bloody action, where 200 of his men died, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Roosevelt was US President for two terms, from 1901 to 1909. He did many civic hacks as president, especially as a leader of the Progressive movement, the primary goal of which was to eliminate corruption in government. In addition to busting up several monopolies, he fought for safer food and drugs. Roosevelt was instrumental in cleaning up the unsanitary and unsafe conditions in the food packing industry by leading the charge to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Pure Food and Drug Act. The Pure Food and Drug Act defined "misbranding" and "adulteration" for the first time and the penalties for actions prohibited by the legislation. The food packers weren't happy, but millions of Americans benefited from those two Acts.

"Under the law, drug labels, for example, had to list any of 10 ingredients that were deemed "addictive" and/or "dangerous" on the product label if they were present, and could not list them if they were not present. Alcohol, morphine and opium, and cannabis were all included on the list of these "addictive" and/or "dangerous" drugs."
Roosevelt left the Washington political scene after two terms. However, after watching from the sidelines and disagreeing strongly with how the US government was running the country, he decided to run for president one more time. He couldn't secure the presidential nomination of the Republican party for the 1912 elections, so he founded the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party and ran under that banner. He did end up getting more votes for president than Taft, the Republican candidate, but he lost to Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat candidate.

Roosevelt and John Muir by a Yosemite sequoia
According to National Park Service, he played a huge role in preserving America's natural wonders for future generations. President Roosevelt,
"doubled the number of sites within the National Park system. As President from 1901 to 1909, he signed legislation establishing five new national parks: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sully's Hill, North Dakota (later re-designated a game preserve); Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma (now part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area). However another Roosevelt enactment had a broader effect: the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906. The Antiquities Act enabled President Roosevelt and succeeding Presidents to proclaim historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest in federal ownership as national
monuments. Roosevelt did not hesitate to take advantage of this new executive authority. By the end of 1906 he had proclaimed four national monuments: Devil's Tower, Wyoming, on September 24 and El Morro, New Mexico, Montezuma Castle, Arizona, and Petrified Forest, Arizona, together on December 8. He also interpreted the authority expansively, protecting a large portion of the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908."
To learn more about Theodore Roosevelt, read his Wikipedia entry, then become more familiar with one of the top US civic hackers by getting a recommendation for a good biography about him from your local librarian.

(By the way, public libraries are a civic hack in which Andrew Carnegie played a huge part, having built half the public libraries in the US by 1930...)


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