Mom’s Connection to the Root, Elihu Root, That Is

by | Feb 20, 2017 | Blog

My mother was one busy bee growing up. Besides her many educational, recreational and musical activities, she made scrapbooks as a teenager that proves her busyness. She saved all kinds of programs, ticket stubs and newspaper clippings from 1937 to 1942 when she graduated from Clinton (NY) High School. She devoted four pages to newspaper clippings about the death of Elihu Root(February 15, 1845-February 7, 1937), a native of Clinton. I was reminded of her scrapbook when I read in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. In the chapter titled “Making People Glad to Do What You Want” he tells how President Woodrow Wilson failed to use this principle when he labored to lead the United States into the League of Nations. Carnegie wrote that Wilson failed to make the Senate and Republican Party happy by not taking prominent Republican leaders like Elihu Root, Charles Evans Hughes or Henry Cabot Lodge to the peace conference with him. He failed to “let them feel that the League was their idea as well as his, refused to let them have a finger in the pie; and, as a result of this crude handling of human relations, wrecked his own career, ruined his health, shortened his life, caused America to stay out of the League, and altered the history of the world.” That’s a mouthful to swallow, and it’s not my purpose to get into a political argument about the matter. My purpose is to connect my reading of Carnegie’s words to Mom’s connection to this Root, Elihu Root, who was born and raised in Clinton, New York. His father was a mathematics professor at Hamilton College which is located in the little country town southwest of Utica. Elihu graduated from Hamilton first in his class. He taught school for a time before entering law school. When he graduated from law school, he started his legal career in New York City. It was hard initially, but by the age of thirty, he was working with major corporations. He was active in the Republican Party, was appointed District Attorney for the southern New York. In 1899 he was appointed Secretary of War by President William McKinley. He reorganized the military and established the War College, along with a number of other changes. In 1905 he was appointed Secretary of State by Theodore Roosevelt. Again, he instituted changes to the department and negotiated dozens of treaties, built relationships with Latin America and initiated the plan to give the Philippines democratic self-rule. He declined the Republican nomination for the presidency. In 1912 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The newspaper clippings Mom cut out and diligently pasted into her scrapbook speak of these and many other achievements by Elihu Root. He returned to Clinton during the summers to relax and garden, and I can’t help but think that she saw him in his latter years. I don’t remember learning about him so I never thought to ask Mom if she ever met him or saw him around town. I like to think that she at least saw him. I would also like to think that her connection to Mr. Root’s home town helped expand Mom’s awareness of the world beyond little Clinton, New York. Mom and Dad were married in Clinton on September 20, 1947 at Stone Presbyterian Church. I remember her reading about world events in newspapers and magazines and watching the evening news on television.

One of the articles in Mom’s scrapbook contains several of Mr. Root’s quotes that appear to be relevant to some of our present struggles: “the world is now seeking a new pathway to happiness by the re-enthronement of those powers of civilization that depends upon what men really are—the soul, the heart, the character of men.” “the world is full of hatred because of the incapacity of people to become truly civilized.” Concerning exiles from Bolshevist Russia, they should be “supported until conditions make possible their return to lead in the regeneration of their government.” These quotations, and many others, along with his achievements tell me that Elihu Root is worthy of modern attention. Mom’s scrapbook introduced me to him and Dale Carnegie’s reference to him motivated me to learn more about him. I’d encourage you to get connected to the Root, Elihu Root, that is!





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