07 June 2010

Rider University

13 Nov 2009. Does that horse's eye look right to you? It's kind of rolling back in its head. Is this out of pleasure, fear, pain, sarcasm, hallucinogens - what is it?? I'll stay on my high horse and won't accept that it's just bad art.


"Mr. Riis, take a look at this telegram. What do you suppose that minister's boy means by this?" Theodore Roosevelt passed the paper over to Jacob Riis, his mousy journalist friend.
"It means you'll be taking a trip to the haberdasher before long. You're not one to resist a public appearance, TR!"
Roosevelt laughed. "Indeed I am not. But does he intend to draw me into a public debate? That would be quite uncharacteristic of the ol' Virginia gentleman. Just in case, I will need to dress for both formality and aggression. The blackest of black top hats and tailcoat. Oh, I will be ready for you, Wilson!"


Wilson checked his pocketwatch in between sentences. Roosevelt had replied with an affirmative response to the invitation but had not yet shown up. He was nowhere to be found for the pre-announcement briefing, and Wilson could not delay speaking to the impatient press much longer. He had no choice but to begin and hope against hope.
So there he stood, on the stage decorated with maroon and white bunting, sweating it out and talking in circles. It began well enough. Wilson dove into his signature 'Three Points' program governing foreign policy. He stretched his words, fearing that he would repeat himself, outlining his views on free trade and open diplomacy.
When the time came to introduce Roosevelt and the issue at hand, he was still on his own. Wilson adjusted his glasses, laughed nervously, and pretended to shuffle his notes. Improvisation was not his strength.
He glanced back to Edith, who held up three fingers on one hand. She then firmly shot up her little finger, then her thumb, then all five fingers on her other hand. Wilson blinked.
Time to get specific.
"But to aid in achieving these Three Points, there are certain measures we can take as a nation to assure their coming into being.
So, fourthly, the American government will require that adequate guarantees are given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest points consistent with domestic safety."
Wilson's mind shot back to his drafts of the Three Points. There were too many details to include in that broad agenda. But now that he had time and an audience, they came surging back to his brainfront.
As he continued, the original number of issues had now tripled.
"Ninth, the frontiers of Italy ought to be readjusted clearly along recognizable lines of nationality."
His shoulders fell back, his vest seemed tighter around his chest, and his lively hand gestures complemented his now expanded Fourteen Points.
"Fourteenth, a general association of nations must be assembled with the purpose of guaranteeing political independence and territorial integrity!"
With this last declaration, Wilson pumped his fist in the air as his voice crescendoed skyward. The crowd ate it up and cheered wildly. At this point they weren't paying attention to the words but to the man. Wilson was not one to let emotions get control of him, and they were massively enjoying it almost as much as he was.
He would not go any further. A man sitting head and shoulders above the rest bobbed his way toward the stage. Theodore Roosevelt, in dusty formalwear, jumped from his horse and onto the stage.
"Fifteenth, my rump is numb!"
The crowd laughed. A mob of photographers, including Jacob Riis, stormed the stage to get a shot of Wilson and Roosevelt together. Both men were beaming. They exchanged hearty two-handed handshakes and quick words. Roosevelt sat next to Edith. Wilson took back the podium.
"I am honored to share the stage with President Roosevelt. Here is a man who never breaks his word, even when a malfunctioning motorcar forces him to commandeer a farmer's horse and ride the remaining miles!" Wilson pauses and allows the crowd to calm down.
"And that is why we are here today. Lawrenceville State College has been gracious to stage this event for us today. But after we are finished here, it will no longer be referred to by that name. In honor of our esteemed guest, President Roosevelt, the Dakota Bronc, The Colonel, The Rough Rider..."
"...the school will be appointing him to the Board of Trustees..."
Roosevelt looked shocked.
"...under its first year with a new name. May I present...Rough Rider College!"
Two huge white curtains were pulled apart to reveal a maroon and white painting of the new school seal. Roosevelt turned to admire the giant banner. He stood up and ran his hands across the canvas. When he turned back to the crowd, his eyes were shining. Wilson gave the 'by-all-means' arm sweep. Roosevelt stepped to the microphone.
"After all the unkind things I have said about President Wilson, I truly don't deserve this. But it is this brand of generosity that makes him a great leader of our great country, no matter what this upcoming November has in store. With this new responsibility, I vow to make this school a place of vigorous learning in the spirit of our Founding Fathers. It will be a bully good university!"
Roosevelt doffed his top hat. The brass band drowned out the cheers with Hail to the Chief. The crowd dispersed. The executive and former executive made their way offstage.
"I cannot believe you turned three points into fourteen!"
"I had no choice, did I? You need to rid yourself of that bucket of bolts Ford, and upgrade to a Pierce-Arrow. Rides like no other."
"A new motorcoach is not in the cards right now."
"Oh, no?"
"The Amazon calls, Mr. Wilson!"

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