Born into a wealthy family in New York City, Roosevelt was a sickly child who suffered from asthma and stayed at home studying natural history. To overcome his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. Home-schooled, he became an eager student of nature. He attended Harvard University, where he studied biology, boxed and developed an interest in naval affairs. In 1881, one year out of Harvard, he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he became a leader of the reform faction of his Republican Party (the "GOP"). His The Naval War of 1812 (1882) established his professional reputation as a serious historian; he wrote numerous books on hunting, the outdoors, and current political issues, as well as frontier history. In 1884, his first wife and his mother died on the same day. He temporarily left politics and went to the frontier, becoming a rancher in the "Badlands" in the Dakotas. Returning to New York City, he ran for mayor in 1886, finishing third with 60,000 votes. He later gained fame by taking vigorous charge of the city police. At the national level, he was a leader in civil service reform. The Spanish–American War broke out in 1898 while Roosevelt was, effectively, running the Department of the Navy. He promptly resigned and formed the Rough Riders – a volunteer cavalry regiment that fought in Cuba. The war hero was elected governor in 1898 and in 1900 was nominated for vice president. He successfully energized the GOP base as a highly visible campaigner to reelect President William McKinley, Jr. on a platform of high tariffs, the gold standard, imperialism, prosperity at home and victory abroad.
In 1901, President McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became President. He attempted to move the Republican Party (GOP) toward Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. Roosevelt became the first person elected to a term in his own right in 1904 after having ascended to the Presidency (from the Vice-Presidency) upon the death of his predecessor, winning the largest percentage of the popular vote since the uncontested election of 1820. Roosevelt coined the phrase "Square Deal" to describe his domestic agenda, emphasizing that the average citizen would get a fair share under his policies. As an outdoorsman and naturalist, he promoted the conservation movement. On the world stage, Roosevelt's policies were characterized by his slogan, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal; sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to demonstrate American power; and negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
At the end of his second term, Roosevelt promoted his friend William Howard Taft for the 1908 Republican nomination. He toured Africa and Europe. On his return in 1910 he broke bitterly with President Taft on issues of progressivism and personalities. In the 1912 election Roosevelt tried and failed to block Taft's renomination. He launched the Bull Moose Party that called for far-reaching progressive reforms. He lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, as the Taft conservatives gained control of the Republican Party for decades to come. Roosevelt led a major expedition to the Amazon jungles but contracted diseases which ruined his health. Roosevelt has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents, having revived a declining presidency. His face, alongside three other U.S. presidents, is carved in the granite rock of Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He is voiced by Hugh Davidson in Big Time Rushmore.