Monday, January 21, 2013

Lincoln's Son, TR Roosevelt's Father and Baguio's Lungs

All critical eyes in Hollywood are focused on the movie "Lincoln" directed by Stephen Spielberg with Daniel Day-Lewis as the great American President Abraham Lincoln. The legendary  dramatist Tony Kushner based his screenplay on "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The movie was nominated in 12 categories for the Academy Awards and already won as best picture in the recent Golden Globe Awards and best actor for Day-Lewis, among others.
The movie was about the last four months of Lincoln, up to his campaign to end slavery up to his assassination.
The stellar cast also includes Sally Field as wife, Mary Todd Lincoln; David Strathaim as his Secretary of State William Seward, Tommy Lee Jones as Republican Congress Leader Thaddeus Stevens and James Spader as William Bilbo.
It was, however, a former child actor who should interest Baguio residents because of the name recall of the role he plays in "Lincoln". James Cross acted in "Desperate Measures" and "Jack Frost" in 1998, when he was 12 years old. Then eight years in 2006, he played the author Augusten Burroughs in "Running with Scissors" and in 2008, played a gay activist in "Milk."
In Lincoln, he played the 20-something old personal secretary of Lincoln from 1861 to 1865. He not only carried the copy of Lincoln's now famous "Gettysburg Address" but actually stole the paper where it was written as his personal collection. Hay was Lincoln's confidante and companion in those tumultuous years. He was there at the Ford Theater when Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. So I was even thinking: was Kushner finding a gay angle here with Lincoln and him
His name was John Milton Hay and the movie served as an introduction to one of the lesser-known (unless you're from Baguio) historical figures in US. After Lincoln, the young John Hay became the Secretary of State of William McKinley and then T.R. Roosevelt, who adored Hay's benevolent assimilation stand. Hay helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War which ceded our country to the US. McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist and it is very possible that Hay was also an eyewitness.
But it was Lincoln whom Hay truly loved, even co-writing a ten-volume biography on Lincoln. When Roosevelt succeeded McKinley, John Hay was also taken in as State Secretary although he was already sickly then. It was through his advice that US agreed to purchase the Philippines for $20 million. By the way, John Hay was a poet. 
Among John Hay's legacy were the negotiation for the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Open Door Policy in China in 1900 and the preparations for the Panama Canal.
There is a new book on John Hay which is set to be published this year. Written by John Taliaferro, "All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt" will prove the importance of this unassuming man. This 672-page book is the first full-scale biography  of a man said to be a "son" of Lincoln and the "father" of T.R. Roosevelt.
Hay is one of the most pivotal figures in American public life. But, as Taliaferro writes, that is only half the story. He knew everybody from Mark Twain to Henry James, and every president and world leader. He was best friends with Henry Adams, and the two were in love with the same married woman, Lizzie Cameron, the Madame X of Washington Society.
Through Hay, Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize and in gratitude, on October 25, 1903, President Roosevelt established a land in Benguet for a military reservation under the United States Army and called it the John Hay Air Base. It still remains as Camp John Hay under Filipino control and will probably hold that name for a long time.
In 1905, John Hay died and was buried in Cleveland, Ohio. 


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