Monday, October 27, 2008, marked the 150th birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, and in the words of T.R. reprisor, Joe Wiegand, "a sesquicentennial is hard to say and fun to do!" A lifelong student of American history, government and foreign policy, Joe is a political science graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and a former political science graduate student and graduate assistant at the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University.
On October 26, Wiegand's one-man-show as Theodore Roosevelt was featured in a free, public performance at the Roosevelt birthplace, a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service at 28 East 20th Street, New York City, New York. On October 27, Wiegand performed for President and Mrs. Bush and their guests at the White House in Washington, D.C., at a special event celebrating Theodore Roosevelt's 150th birthday.
With an amazing physical resemblance to a young and vigorous Theodore Roosevelt, Wiegand has traveled the forty-eight lower states and Hawaii, visiting or performing in hundreds of locations associated with the legacy of the Rough Rider president. Since February, Wiegand and his family have logged over 70,000 miles around the United States celebrating Roosevelt's birthday and the final centennial year of his historic presidency.
As Theodore Roosevelt, Wiegand tells hundreds of stories from the adventurous life of the Dakota rancher, the Rough Rider who led the charge up San Juan Heights and the president who used the presidency as a "bully pulpit" to fight for conservation, a Square Deal and a "Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick" approach to foreign policy. "Most of all, I enjoy telling stories of rearing six children at the White House, though Mrs. Roosevelt would tell you she reared seven children there!" concludes Wiegand as T.R.
Wiegand's "Great 2008 T.R. Tour" was designed to visit the lower forty-eight states and concluded with a celebration of T.R.'s 150th birthday on October 27. Wiegand is extending the celebratory tour until March 4, 2009, one hundred years to the day of Theodore Roosevelt's last day as President of the United States.
"I had a wonderful performance for the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to commemorate the Great White Fleet's visit a century before, so I really must get to Alaska, too," says Wiegand, explaining, in part, his rationale for extending a tour that has already been as long and as grueling as any real presidential campaign.
At the age of forty-three and with determination and enthusiasm reminiscent of the man he plays, Wiegand promises many more delightful adventures as he performs his way across America.