This Fourth of July, Thank Teddy Roosevelt

It's impossible to examine the life of Theodore Roosevelt and not feel a certain degree of envy. The man was so prodigious in his pursuits and accomplishments it humbles everyone who comes close.

He wrote books seemingly at will, thirty-five in all, some even while he was serving as president. He traveled back and forth across the country and around the world like a modern day jet-setting businessperson—before jets were around, of course. He persevered through a catastrophic loss that could easily have crippled him emotionally for life. He single-handedly remade the biggest and possibly most corrupt police department in the country. He busted monopolies. He fought wars. He served two terms in the White House—then tried to run again. And, oh by the way, he saved 230 million acres of land for future generations.

Think about that last point for a second. 230 million acres. That's how much of America's wilderness Roosevelt set aside for posterity between 1901 and 1909. That is a staggering one-tenth of all the land in this country. Taken in one chunk that would cover the area from Maine down to Florida. Millions of us will visit national parks this summer and this holiday weekend. And for that we have Theodore Roosevelt to thank. His bold, brash, groundbreaking actions in office did not just anticipate the needs of his constituents, his kids, and his grandkids, but the needs of Americans hundreds of years down the road.

I encourage you to take a look at a wonderful new book that's scheduled for release later this month, "The Wildnerness Warrior," by Douglas Brinkley, the acclaimed author and presidential historian (full disclosure: Doug is also a colleague of mine here at CBS News). And I hope you can join us Saturday night at 6:30pET on CBS for a special piece we put together exploring Roosevelt's legacy as a naturalist. Doug and I sat down at Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill home on Long Island, the place where T.R. went to escape the hustle and bustle of New York and later Washington, D.C. The goal of the book is to put T.R. in his rightful historical place, as the man "who turned conservationism into a universal endeavor."

With all the talk about going green in this century, I found it fascinating to hear about a person who was doing it at the beginning of the previous century. Theodore Roosevelt, ahead of his time, still ahead of most everyone else.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.