Last Minute Decisions That Changed History

Teddy Roosevelt, campaigning in 1912. ThoughtCo

39. The Speech That Saved Teddy Roosevelt’s Life

In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt regretted his decision to walk away from the presidency in 1908. So he returned to the campaign trail, running for president as candidate of the Bull Moose Party. On October 14th of that year, he made his way to a podium at the Milwaukee Auditorium, and opened with the unremarkable statement “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible”. Next, however, he delivered one of the most remarkable lines ever uttered on the stump: “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have been shot”. As the horrified audience gasped, TR unbuttoned his vest, to reveal a bloodstained shirt beneath. The former president then topped his previous statement with an even more memorable one: “it takes more than that to kill a bull moose!

“I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap”

TR pulled out a 50 page speech from his coat pocket, pierced through with a bullet, and continued: “Fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet—there is where the bullet went through—and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best”. Just about any other candidate – except maybe Andrew Jackson – would have keeled over in shock or at least bid the audience adieu before rushing to seek medical care, but not TR. Assuring his audience “I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap”, he went ahead and delivered a ninety minute fiery speech.