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Roosevelt takes the stage: Clay Jenkinson portrays TR during mock debate

Theodore Roosevelt took the stage Friday night ready to wow the crowd and hopefully win enough votes so that he and William McKinley would be voted back into the White House.

Left, Clay Jenkinson, Thomas Mitzel and Don Moon show the audience what a debate from 1900 would have been like. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)
Left, Clay Jenkinson, Thomas Mitzel and Don Moon show the audience what a debate from 1900 would have been like. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)

Theodore Roosevelt took the stage Friday night ready to wow the crowd and hopefully win enough votes so that he and William McKinley would be voted back into the White House.

In 1900, the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket was deep into a hotly contested race against William Jennings Bryan, much like the presidential election on the minds of Americans this year.

"I'm sorry I dozed off there during his speech," said Roosevelt, portrayed by scholar Clay Jenkinson after a speech from Jennings, portrayed by Don Moon.

The 11th annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium hosted at Dickinson State University this weekend focused on the stark contrast of campaigning more than a century ago with the theme Theodore Roosevelt: Candidate in the Arena. On Friday night, symposium attendees watched the mock debate from their seats at Dorothy Stickney Auditorium.

There they were able to witness a much different kind of debate than what they may be used to.

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"There was more than mudslinging that went on," DSU President Thomas Mitzel told the crowd.

Mitzel jokingly urged the crowd to not throw dirt, mud or rocks at the candidates or hit them with wooden planks - like candidates were subjected to during whistle stop tours at the turn of the century.

Jenkinson said Roosevelt was met with such anger on his tours because of unrest, but he never let it wear him down.

"People threw everything at him and he was like, 'Bring it on.' It didn't bother him a bit. It wasn't defiant," Jenkinson said. "I think everybody loved him because of that because he wasn't flappable."

Women were encouraged to throw yellow flowers on stage as a protest for the absence of their right to vote.

Melanie Veteto traveled from San Diego to take on the role of a women's suffrage activist and said she continues to come back to the symposium because she loves Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was one of the first candidates to travel cross-country and when he debated against Bryan, he would have been doing so as a vice presidential candidate since McKinley, the presidential candidate, would have only campaigned by inviting the media into the White House.

Roosevelt became president in 1901 after McKinley was shot on Sept. 6, 1901, and died about a week later.

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Melanie Veteto portrayed a woman's rights activist during a mock debate for the TR Symposium. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)
Melanie Veteto portrayed a woman's rights activist during a mock debate for the TR Symposium. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)

Related Topics: DICKINSON STATE UNIVERSITY
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