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Awesome Men Throughout History: Teddy Roosevelt

It would be a tremendous oversight to start up an Awesome Men Throughout History column and not include America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. He’s not an obscure historical figure by any means, but really, the public’s familiarity with the man stops at the quote about big sticks and, upon seeing a photograph of him, his cool mustache.

Badass Teddy

Which is all well and good, but Teddy was such an inexhaustible ass-kicker in his day that it’s a shame no one thought to freeze his DNA in advance of cloning technology. We could use a brace of Roosevelts in this country right now.

The first ass he kicked was severe asthma, which kept him almost bedridden as a child. When he wasn’t teaching himself the specifics of taxidermy and zoology, his father put him through a strenuous regimen of boxing and exercise to improve his health. Most action heroes don’t get an inspirational workout montage until over halfway through the movie, but Teddy got one when he was nine. And it worked – he went from an asthmatic, butterfly-collecting nerd to an impressive athlete in the space of a few years.

After college (Harvard, where he was a respected boxer) and a brief entry into politics, but before his service in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt built a ranch in the Badlands, learned how to rope and hunt, and became a deputy sheriff.  During that time, he captured three outlaws who’d stolen his river boat and guarded them before trial for forty straight hours, reading dime novels and Tolstoy to keep himself awake. I imagine he picked Tolstoy because War & Peace is dense enough to be used as a weapon, should the need arise.

Of course, Teddy did go back into politics, cleaning up the NYPD as the president of New York City’s board of police commissioners and serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, for which he voluntarily left his cushy desk job to go fight. Teddy led a cavalry regiment, the Rough Riders, when he could have been hundreds of miles away in Washington, not getting shot at.

From there, he became governor of New York and so fiercely battled corruption that the state’s political machine bosses shanghaied him onto William McKinley’s presidential ticket, as vice-president. Teddy became president after McKinley was assassinated in 1901, and ran the country without toning down his active lifestyle. He frequently sparred with prizefighters as routine exercise, and would taunt them if they went easy on him. Consequently, one of his training partners detached his retina.

Let’s pause on that for a second. Can you imagine any modern president boxing? While you’re thinking, consider how the national media lit up like a pinball machine when Obama split his lip during a basketball game, and how that made him look like a pansy even before you heard about Teddy lacing up the gloves when he was supposed to be figuring out the Panama Canal.

I’ll leave you with one final example of Teddy’s unquestionable manliness. He was shot in the chest during a campaign speech in 1912, and would have been killed if his 50-page speech hadn’t absorbed some of the impact. Not only did Roosevelt finish his speech with a bleeding gunshot wound in his chest, he refused surgery and carried that bullet in his chest until he died. Holy crap.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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