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Quick Wits, a Hasty Verdict, and a Fast Exit

August 23, 2017

Theodore Roosevelt was a very smart man.  His friends and close acquaintances attested to his ability to digest large amounts of information in a short time.  One such occasion occurred during his post-Presidency while traveling by train.  Newspaperman William Allen White had already read the book Roosevelt was reading.  It contained many technical words, including some in French and German.  Occasionally, there was a Greek word.  When White read the book, he had plodded along at a pace of five to ten minutes before turning the page.  Regarding Roosevelt’s pace, White wrote: “But the Colonel charged through it all, breasting the big words like high weeds and comprehending what he was reading.”

How did White know Roosevelt was “comprehending what he was reading?”

“He was turning two or three pages a minute.  He peered over his glasses at me as I was grinning at him, and said: ‘You think I am faking.’”  When White nodded, Roosevelt replied: “All right. Take the book.  I have read to here.  Go back as far as you please and examine me.”

And here is White’s testimony: “I did.  He was letter-perfect.  It was one of the most extraordinary mental feats I ever saw.  How did he do it?”

Theodore Roosevelt was a very smart man.  As President he was also an energetic multi-tasker.  After giving the order which dismissed three companies of black soldiers from the Army, he made preparations to leave for Panama.  “I am going down to see how the ditch is getting along.”  When the Secretary of War had second thoughts about the dismissal order, he cabled Roosevelt, but the President could not be reached.




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