[Q&A] Young Preservationist Maddie Gregurek on Theodore Roosevelt's Preservation Legacy
Early this year, high school freshman Maddie Gregurek entered Iowa’s National History Day regional competition (a preliminary round of the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest). Maddie took the competition’s theme, “Leadership and Legacy,” and focused her project on Theodore Roosevelt’s role in the conservation movement.
During her research for the project, Maddie reached out to the National Trust for more information on how Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch influenced his position on conservation. At the regional competition, Maddie wowed the judges with her project and was able to advance to the state round where she competed against other projects from across Iowa.
Recently, we talked with Maddie about her National History Day project and her interest in Theodore Roosevelt’s leadership and legacy in conservation and preservation.
What was your project about?
My project was about Theodore Roosevelt and the conservation of the overall American Frontier. It really focused on Roosevelt’s leadership in the area of conserving America’s wilderness from being overdeveloped and the legacy he’s left through the National Park System and groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
What inspired you to choose Theodore Roosevelt and his conservation efforts for your project?
Well, I’ve always really been into nature and outdoorsy stuff, so I wanted to do a topic in that area. Since the theme was “Leadership and Legacy,” I started looking into who would be a good leader for this. I found lots of other people who helped lead the conservation movement in different ways, but I really liked Theodore Roosevelt because he led it through popularizing it. He used his presidential position to build a platform for conservation and convince more Americans that it was a good idea.
How did your research lead you to the National Trust for Historic Preservation?
The way I found it was through my teacher. She told me that she was watching her local news, and an interview came up with Stephanie Meeks (president of the National Trust) at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. After looking a little more into it and seeing that the group was trying to preserve places like Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, I decided to send an email and see if I would get an interview.
What information did you gain from the Trust and how did it help your project?
Overall, I found that Theodore Roosevelt had a huge influence on not only environmental preservation but also historic preservation. That legacy can be seen today through groups that carry on historic preservation. I also learned that Theodore Roosevelt -- considering there are still people trying to preserve places such as Elkhorn Ranch -- still has an impact on America today.
What type of presentation did you make for the project?
I did an exhibit. It was a big, wooden, three-sided board and [it] had artifacts on there. I had a few postcards from the original National Parks from the early 1900s, a Theodore Roosevelt bust, and then just a few other artifacts along with the photos and other information.
I really tried to go in-depth with this project. Altogether, the research took me about eight months. I focused mostly on National Parks and National Forests, and then my project included a timeline.
One of the things I can take away from this project is how important conservation really was and how just one individual can start to make a change. Even though Theodore Roosevelt was in a position of power, he had hundreds of influences who helped him shape his view on conservation. [Another important takeaway] is how the American conservation system is one of the most unique in the world right now. The United States is one of the main countries that really works to preserve our historic as well as our natural resources for future generations.
Text edited for length and clarity.