An eager class of Lewis and Clark first graders had a unique opportunity to put their Teddy Roosevelt knowledge to the test Wednesday morning.
Joe Wiegand, who has portrayed the nation’s 26th president in all 50 states and, most particularly, in Medora, was an honored guest in the classroom of Kristi Hildebrandt, after the teacher won an online contest for the appearance.
Hildebrandt was nominated for the contest on the Medora Facebook page by a colleague, Lissa Voigt.
“It was a complete surprise until I found out I had won,” Hildebrandt said. “But it is a great way to start the year. We start social studies in first grade, so that is when we start to learn about communities and being a good citizen,” she said. “We learn about famous people who made an impact on the world we are in today.”
Roosevelt has made a great impact on both North Dakota and the nation, Hildebrandt said. To get ready for his visit, students read stories about Roosevelt and learned about his likes and dislikes, as well as his character traits.
“Some of the students have also been to Medora and met him in Medora,” Hildebrandt said. “So this is nice for them to see a local figure (portraying someone) who was so important to our country and our state.”
Wiegand, in character as Roosevelt, found the students quizzing him during his interactive presentation, trying to catch him out in a fact or two.
But, with so many years of study on Roosevelt, he handled all the president’s details flawlessly — much to the students’ delight.
“Today is a special day, a sad day,” Roosevelt told the students. “And you might not remember why we stop and pause on September 11, but a long time ago, 18 years ago, there was a terrible attack on people in New York City. So we remember this day, and how special it is.”
Then Roosevelt did a little quizzing of his own, asking many of the students to tell one thing that they remember about him.
The president’s love of riding and hunting were among top mentions.
“I’m the first president to have ridden in an automobile,” Roosevelt said, laughing. “I’m the first president to have ridden in an automobile, an airplane and a submarine. But the thing I most liked to ride, after my bicycle, was a horse. There’s nothing so good for the inside of a man or woman as the outside of a horse.”
Roosevelt urged the students to do three things. First, to visit his ranch in Medora.
Second, to show the Teddy bear he left with the class a “rough and tumble life.”
“Go outside and get him (and yourselves) a little dirty,” he urged the students. “You’re going to fall down in life, but the key to life is when you fall down, get back up again.”
Lastly, Roosevelt wanted the students to act with kindness to their fellow students, teachers and parents.
“To see each of you gives me great hope for this Republic of ours,” Roosevelt said. “That each of you will (grow up to) be a good citizens in the days ahead.”