On a wintry morning in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt arrived at a White House Cabinet meeting with fire in his eyes. To the men before him, his look conveyed exuberance—or gravity. “Gentlemen,” he asked, almost breathlessly, “do you know what has happened this morning?”
Roosevelt’s team, an accomplished but somber lot, was accustomed to receiving word of national tragedy. Three Republican presidents had been assassinated in their lifetime—Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley. So, upon seeing an agitated Roosevelt, the men leaned forward, bracing for bad news.
“Just now,” said the president, “I saw a chestnut-sided warbler.” He paused for effect. “And this is only February!”
Excerpted from The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, by Douglas Brinkley, published in July by HarperCollins; © 2009 by the author.