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LO awuthor describes Teddy Roosevelt's ties to photographer Edward Curtis

Native Jon Knokey to speak about his new book, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership"


Jon Knokey is well remembered in Lake Oswego as an outstanding football player at Lakeridge High School.

But this local boy has really made good in a unique way, and Oswegans can find out all about it tonight in Knokey’s presentation for Lake Oswego Reads at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 380 A Ave.

His topic will be the cowboy and war hero President Theodore Roosevelt. Knokey found Roosevelt so fascinating that he has written a new book about him titled “Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership.”

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Jon Knokeys new book examines how Theodore Roosevelt became a leader of consequence.

“Great leaders are made, not born,” Knokey said. “Theodore Roosevelt was not destined to have his face carved into the side of Mount Rushmore. The focus of my book is on his actions to make himself a leader of consequence.”

Roosevelt became popular enough to earn his place on the mountain through acts including constructing the Panama Canal and fighting against corporate monopolies, according to the National Park Service’s website.

The focus of Knokey’s talk in Lake Oswego, though, will be Roosevelt’s relationship with Edward Curtis, the great photographer who is the subject of Lake Oswego Reads 2016 in Timothy Egan’s book “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.”

Roosevelt had such a wide and diverse group of friends that White House butlers were often appalled about who would show up at the doorstep. But Curtis had an impossible dream of a project — capturing the history of Native Americans before it faded away — that made him a natural object for Roosevelt’s intense appreciation, according to Knokey.

“Theodore Roosevelt had such a strong bond with Edward Curtis because Curtis was preserving the Native American way of life,” Knokey said, “illustrating their character, heritage and values. Roosevelt cherished their values and desperately wanted that way of life to influence future generations of Americans.”

Roosevelt even wrote the foreword to Curtis’s classic work “The North American Indian,” and Roosevelt was “deeeeeeeeeeelighted” (as he often used to say) to take Curtis traipsing around with his four rambunctious sons for outings on Sagamore Hill. There is a photo of Curtis helping Roosevelt’s offspring with covering up their dog with sand. Curtis mixed so well with the high and the mighty that it was natural he would make friends with the most famous man in America.

Curtis was a great friend because of Roosevelt’s tireless desire for education, which made him an unparalleled figure in American history. He was an Eastern elitist, Western cowboy, police commissioner, governor, soldier, adventurer and President of the United States. Succeeding a line of sluggish Presidents, Roosevelt hit the American scene like a jet stream of energy.

However, the rise of this Rough Rider did not come without great challenges. Knokey points out that Roosevelt got knocked down many times, but he always got back up.

“TR had many failures, and often, it was how he learned from these failures to make his biggest strides in leadership,” Knokey said. “Yes, he was willful, ambitious and driven, but he deliberately challenged himself — both through personal introspection and by confronting his shortcomings — and honed his leadership persona in the process.”

Jon Knokey and Theodore Roosevelt are alike in many ways as Renaissance men with muscles. Though a sickly child, Roosevelt became a strong sportsman who, in fact, saved American football. When an effort to abolish it (back when it went only to the college level) arose, the late President fought to keep it, and in 1905, regulated the game, cutting gang tackling and rugby-style mass formations. At Lakeridge High School, Knokey played football, soccer, basketball and baseball, and he had many scholastic activities. He went on to become a National Collegiate Athletic Association quarterback for Montana State University.

Another way Knokey resembles Roosevelt is in his tremendous love of books. By participating in Lake Oswego Reads, Knokey says he is repaying the Lake Oswego Public Library for the countless hours he has spent there reading books. Knokey has logged some time in lots of other libraries and holds a Master of Business Administration from Dartmouth College and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.

Knokey has gone on to a most uncommon career, as a businessman and historian. This usually surprises people, but for Knokey, it is a natural combination.

“I realize business leaders and historians are not a common match, but I cannot separate business and history,” Knokey said. “Business is all about winning in the future. But history provides a foundation of understanding.”

Knokey thinks his presentation tonight will provide inspiration in a political year that badly needs some.

“I think that this is an uplifting story of unity and inspiration,” Knokey said, “a perfect antidote for today’s venomous political environment.

“It begs the question: Who will be this century’s TR?”

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..