No bull ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ spotted in downtown Lititz

By on May 9, 2012

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Photo by Stephen Seeber
Joe Wiegand, as President Teddy Roosevelt, shares stories from the Spanish-American War while walking along East Main Street.

Lititz was the scene of a rare presidential sighting last week.

No, Barack Obama was not sweet talking the crowd at Wilbur Chocolate like he did on his 2008 campaign, but the Record Express did bump into our exuberant Bull Moose president as he headed into the Bulls Head pub for a Scotch egg.

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, the nation’s 26th president (1901-1909), was in town for an address at Linden Hall May 3 … sort of. It was actually Joe Wiegand, acclaimed reprisor who has toured the 50 states with T.R. stories of safaris and assassination attempts, who was strolling along East Main Street with a small lunchtime entourage.

"We were very fortunate that Joe was already in the area for other engagements and able to come to Linden Hall," said George Scouten, academic dean at Linden Hall. "He went to college with Don and Katie Pearson, the parents of one of our day students from Lititz, so that’s how we made the connection. Joe has performed as Teddy Roosevelt all over the country, including at the White House."

While at Linden Hall, Wiegand, as Roosevelt, addressed the entire school and then he met with civics, government and environmental science classes.

"For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the day was when someone would ask him about a current-day issue and see him answer the question as Teddy Roosevelt, applying historical situations to the current situation to answer the way Teddy Roosevelt might have answered," Scouten said.

"Joe shared lots of great anecdotes," he continued, "ranging from the mischievous qualities of his children to his delivery of a speech after getting shot, to the naming of the teddy bear. (One of the qualities) that came through was his determination to lead based on his principles, as opposed to simply taking the pulse of the people. Working with Gifford Pinchot to designate national parks, breaking up monopolies and completing the Panama Canal — just to name a few — all took enormous conviction and force of will."

Scouten, joined by Linden Hall sophomore Bess Pearson and her mother Katie, took the president downtown for lunch. At the Bulls Head, he reportedly enjoyed a Scotch egg, a cup of tomato mushroom soup and an iced tea. The mid-day crowd was sparse, but those who did cross paths with this robust historical figure were charmed by his tales.

In all, the visit was a rare treat for the school.

"Our students and faculty had great things to say about his visit," Scouten said. "In fact, my eighth grade honors civics class quoted him in class the next day — ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing’.

"Joe spent the entire day on campus in character, and he was so convincing that at times it was possible to forget that he wasn’t actually Teddy Roosevelt. His use of diction, his demeanor, even his easy politicking and working of the crowd, it was all so compelling. What struck me most of all about Joe was his store of both anecdotes and mannerisms. This blending of history and acting is what made it so successful."

One real life Roosevelt-Lititz connection that Wiegand may not have been aware of took place on Oct. 12, 1950 when Theodore Roosevelt III, grandson of the president and Pennsylvania’s secretary of commerce at the time, visited to dedicate Lititz’s new fountain at the town square (the one that continues to flow in honor of our Civil War veterans to this day).

For more on Joe Wiegand and his portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt visit More TEDDY, page A18

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