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Faithful in Small Things

September 9, 2015

Former President Theodore Roosevelt died at the age of 60 on January 6, 1919. On Sunday February 9 Senator Henry Cabot Lodge gave an address before the U.S. Congress in honor of Roosevelt.

Lodge spoke of the colonel who led the Rough Riders, the New York governor who foiled the political boss, and the President who ensured the United States would be a world power. About one-fourth of the way through his 43-page speech Lodge declared: “We have had many excellent men who have done good work in the civil service commission, although that work is neither adventurous nor exciting and rarely attracts public attention, but no one has ever forgotten that Theodore Roosevelt was once civil service commissioner.”

During the 1880’s a hostile U.S. Congress would annually investigate the civil service commission with an eye toward limiting its appropriation. One Senator claimed a certain “bright young man” who was unable to give the distance between Baltimore and China was lost to government service because of a ridiculous and arbitrary standard. Roosevelt was able to prove that no such question was on the civil service exam. He then asked for the name of the “bright young man,” but the Senator did not provide it. One Congressman complained that an appointee named Rufus Putnam was not a resident of his district. Roosevelt produced a letter written by that same Congressman which recommended Rufus Putnam and declaring him to be a constituent.

Theodore Roosevelt proved himself faithful in the small details. When he became President, he had a record of public trust which enabled him to do greater things.

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