What would Teddy Roosevelt say about the coronavirus crisis? He’d likely tell us to pull on our boots and charge forward.

After all, the former president declared he never “envied a human being who led an easy life.” Why?

Because, he said, “nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

Another Roosevelt quote relevant today: “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

So considering those bold proclamations, it’s easy to see why the people tasked with building the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum have decided to continue with their work through the coronavirus pandemic.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Roosevelt Library CEO Ed O’Keefe, a Grand Forks native, said this week the library will soon enter the design competition. The group likely will announce the proposals soon.

“Amazingly, despite the challenges, the T.R. Library is moving forward with our design competition,” he wrote to the Herald.

“Why? If the world needed T.R. before, we certainly need T.R. now more than ever,” O’Keefe continued. “The T.R. Library is also an economic stimulus – a $100 million-plus private investment in North Dakota – right when we need it most. Any state, any governor in the nation right now would welcome the kind of opportunity we have to create jobs with pre-construction, construction and a long-term diversification of our economy.”

Despite the pandemic, the library recently announced its preferred site. The 50-acre location is along the Maah Daah Hey Trail, less than two miles from downtown Medora and near the amphitheater now used for the popular Medora Musical. As reported by Forum News Service, the site includes a combination of buildability and scenery, including a flat butte and nearby rocky slope. O’Keefe told FNS the location is “exceptionally beautiful” and, if it is indeed secured, it will leave an impression on visitors to North Dakota’s Badlands.

Fundraising continues. Last year, the Legislature gave approval of $50 million for the project, so long as the library group can raise $100 million in private funds. O’Keefe told Forum News Service recently the process is going well and that he expects the group will reach its goal early next year.

If all goes well, the new facility probably won’t open until 2025. That’s a bit later than the original goal of 2024, but the pandemic probably will cause delays.

When – and we do assume it’s “when” and not “if” – this project becomes reality, it will be a coup for North Dakota, which must jealously guard the state’s Roosevelt legacy while also seeking ways to strengthen its tourism industry. Finally, it could use the moral and economic boost this project will provide.

During the pandemic, it’s refreshing to hear of progress and forward motion. And thinking of Roosevelt, it seems likely the old Roughrider would have wanted it this way.

“So we move forward,” O’Keefe said in his note to the Herald. “Just as T.R. would.”