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DSU symposium to shine new light on Theodore Roosevelt

Photos courtesy the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Dickinson State University Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th president, is shown in 1905 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis.
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With the dark clouds now seemingly gone, DSU is shining a positive spotlight on the eighth annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium it is hosting this week on the campus and in Medora.

Known more in western North Dakota for his assimilation into the Badlands cowboy culture, hunting prowess and conservation efforts and writings, this year’s version of the popular symposium centers around the aptitude America’s 26th president had for the cultural arts.

Themed “Theodore Roosevelt and American Culture,” the series of presentations and discussions kick off Thursday and run through Saturday. For a full list of scheduled events and payment information, visit the DSU website at

So much information was mined by event organizers, in fact, that the 2014 symposium will also be centered on Roosevelt’s cultural affinities, said symposium moderator Clay Jenkinson.

“This is a big one,” Jenkinson said. “We’re going to do two years on this theme because we couldn’t get all the perspectives we want in a single event. This year, we’re going to emphasize music, White House culture, cowboy poetry and literature, including the popular culture of the West. We’re also excited because the scholars we’ve hired this year are new, young people who are working in Roosevelt studies.”

Jenkinson called this year’s lineup of speakers the “next generation of major Roosevelt scholars.” He said organizers are looking forward to hosting University of Virginia cultural scholar Stephen Levine, turn-of-the-century author and history lecturer Michael Patrick Cullinane, conservationist author Roger Di Silvestro, musician and author Hal Cannon and Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra and Bemidji (Minn.) Orchestra music director Beverly Everett.

“The two administrations that you think of when you think of White House performance are John Kennedy’s and Theodore Roosevelt’s,” Jenkinson said. “Interestingly enough, the great cellist Pablo Casals performed for both the Roosevelts during Teddy’s administration and for the Kennedys in 1962. That’s one of the wonderful coincidences we found and that’s something that will be featured by Beverly Everett, who will be lecturing about Roosevelt and music.”

A well-known member of the North Dakota and Minnesota orchestra community and a regular symposium attendee since 2009, Everett said she is looking forward to presenting for the first time.

“I’m honored to be asked to do this,” Everett said. “My role will be to bring who I am as a musician to the occasion and talk specifically about music that was performed at the Roosevelt White House. I will also talk a little bit about a recording project that we’ve been doing through the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State where we’re recording sheet music pieces that were written around the turn of the century about Roosevelt, his children and his campaigns.”

TR Center project manager Sharon Kilzer pointed out that members of the public can attend any of the speaking sessions at no cost, including Friday’s 7 p.m. musical performance by Cannon.

Kilzer said the symposium will be an opportunity to possibly view Roosevelt — one of the most popular and storied U.S. presidents of all-time — in a different light.

“In our sense of who Roosevelt is, we don’t think of him in the arts,” Kilzer said. “Exploring that, to me, is a new lens to look at him through. It’s remarkable what you find when you look through that lens because he was so engaged in the arts. He wanted us to develop uniquely American literature and art. It’s an area we haven’t looked at before and it’s an area where we can learn about our history as a people.”

Attendees can register at the door in May Hall on the DSU campus beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday. For those wishing to partake, registration fees can be paid for specific days or for the entire symposium and include meals and a Saturday field trip to Medora, including a closing reception at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

“Roosevelt was really much more culturally aware and important than one might think,” said Jenkinson, who is an established Badlands and Roosevelt author and historian as well as serving as a Roosevelt humanities scholar for DSU. “He was the president of the American Historical Association at one time and was involved in all of these areas. He was a significant national person who really took a role that no other president, except possibly Thomas Jefferson, has taken.”

Theodore Roosevelt and American Culture


At Dickinson State University

6 p.m. – Registration, May Hall

7 p.m. – Welcome and introductions

7:30 p.m. – Keynote Address: Stephen Levine, “American Culture at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”



At Dickinson State University’s May Hall

8 a.m. – Registration/Breakfast May Hall

9 a.m. – Opening Remarks

9:15 a.m. – Hal Cannon, “TR and John Lomax: The Preservation of Cowboy Culture”

9:45 a.m. – Q&A with Hal Cannon

10:15 a.m. – Roger Di Silvestro, “TR and the ‘Western’: Dime Novels, Mayne Reid and Owen Wister”

10:45 a.m. – Q&A with Roger Di Silvestro

11 a.m. – Panel: Stephen Levine, Hal Cannon, Roger Di Silvestro, Clay Jenkinson (moderator)

11:45 a.m. – Lunch

1 p.m. – Michael Patrick Cullinane, “Roosevelt and Film”

1:30 p.m. – Q&A with Michael Patrick Cullinane

2 p.m. – Beverly Everett, “The Roosevelt White House and the Arts”

2:40 p.m. – Q&A with Beverly Everett

3 p.m. – Multimedia Presentation by Theodore Roosevelt Center staff, “Theodore Roosevelt on Film and in Music”

4:45 p.m. – Social at DSU Alumni and Foundation House

5:30 p.m. – Dinner

7 p.m. – Performance by Hal Cannon at May Hall



Field trip to Medora

8:15 a.m. – Registration for Field Trip/Breakfast at DSU Student Center

9 a.m. – Buses leave

9:45 a.m. – Panel with guest scholars on a wide-ranging discussion and synthesis of symposium themes

11:30 a.m. – Lunch and field trip

4 p.m. – Closing reception at North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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