By the time the United States entered World War I, Theodore Roosevelt was a private citizen. Though no longer president, the nation continued to look to him for advice and wisdom. In 1917, when American troops were preparing to sail across the Atlantic for the battlefields of Europe, the New York Bible Society asked Roosevelt to inscribe a message in the pocket New Testament that each soldier would be given. The former president gladly obliged. He began with what he called the Micah Mandate:
The teaching of the New Testament is foreshadowed in Micah’s verse, “What more doth the Lord require of thee than to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Do justice; and therefore fight valiantly against those that stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebulb on this earth. Love mercy; treat your enemies well; succor the afflicted; treat every woman as if she were your sister; care for the little children; and be tender with the old and helpless. Walk humbly; you will do so if you study the life and teachings of the Savior, walking in His steps. And remember; the most perfect machinery of government will not keep us as a nation from destruction if there is not within us a soul. No abounding of material prosperity shall avail us if our own spiritual senses atrophy. The foes of our own household will surely prevail against us unless there be in our people an inner life which gives its outward expression in a morality like unto that preached by the seers and prophets of God when the grandeur that was Greece and the glory that was Rome still lay in the future.
My father served in the Pacific during World War II, and the New Testament he carried with him contained Roosevelt’s Micah Mandate. Roosevelt knew that “the teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure ourselves what that life would be if these standards were removed.” He highly valued God’s holy word and wanted to give American soldiers a striking biblical call for a life of balance.
What most history books don’t tell us is that Theodore Roosevelt had a heart for the living God. His published works contain over 4,200 biblical images, inferences, and quotations, and many of his unpublished letters and writings contain thousands more. A graduate of Harvard, Roosevelt stated that “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
All of these titles belong to Roosevelt: Nobel Peace Prize winner, naval historian, essayist, biographer, paleontologist, taxidermist, big-game hunter, rancher, orator, conservationist, patron of the arts, Colonel of the cavalry, former New York governor, a father, and president of the United States. But the one title that Roosevelt would value more highly than any other would be “a man of God.”