'Teddy Roosevelt' visits Holy Family School in Eastmoreland
The man who strode into the Holy Family Catholic School gymnasium not long ago certainly appeared to be former President Teddy Roosevelt.
"I prefer to be called Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, sir!" later said actor Joe Wiegand – who then stepped out of character to speak with THE BEE. "Doing this saved me from a career being in Illinois Republican politics," Wiegand said, quickly slipping back into his character's speaking pattern. "You know, Illinois – where circumstances and prosecutions have shown it's the state where the governors make the license plates on a bipartisan basis!"
While attending an endless string of political fundraising dinners serving up "bad chicken dinners and even worse entertainment," Wiegand said he'd tried his hand at performance, and drawing on his remarkable resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt, he created his character.
"As a young man I fought against my Republican Party leadership to make Illinois a better place to live, served as a County Commissioner, and ran unsuccessfully – twice – for the State Legislature. I'm so very glad I lost the second time, because that was the year I started doing Theodore Roosevelt's 'Man in the Arena' speech," Wiegand recalled.
In 2008 he ran Governor Huckabee's presidential campaign in Illinois. "That year in February, my family and I got in an R.V., and started touring the continental United States in honor of Theodore Roosevelt's 150th birthday – a tour that culminated in performing as Roosevelt in Washington D.C. at the White House, for the President and Mrs. George W. Bush, on October 20, 2008," Wiegand told THE BEE.
Since then, he's been performing as many as 400 shows a year, every year – including this one in Eastmoreland, which was his seventh of the season of the "Teddy Roosevelt Road Show", produced by the Oregon Historical Museum.
As he began his presentation, he told the audience, "When the guy from the Historical Museum, when he saw me coming up, he said 'Oh he's the Monopoly Dude' – but actually, I'm the anti-Monopoly dude!"
With his hat in hand, and a Teddy Bear under his arm, this faux Teddy Roosevelt gave the kids at Holy Family a presentation that balanced humor, inspiration, and historical facts. He helped the students get more of a "flesh and blood" feeling of what it was like to be a man, a father, and a husband in the White House.
The students sat silently, mesmerized by the lively presentation.
"The challenges faced by the country a century ago are pretty much the same as they are today," he explained. "Income disparity, conservation of natural resources, protection of American sovereignty – these issues are still with us."
Enthusiastic applause followed the end of the performance. That is one "history lesson" that the Holy Family School students will long remember.
To get a sample of this exceptional performer at work, visit his website: www.teddyrooseveltshow.com