Joe Wiegand (born April 15, 1965), is an impersonator who has portrayed Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, in all fifty U.S. states, as well as being a political consultant. During the last months of the George W. Bush presidency, Wiegand was invited to come to the White House on October 27, 2008 as part of the official White House celebration of the 150th anniversary of Roosevelt's birth and portray TR in the East Room. Wiegand, a historian, writer and lecturer on the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt is also a member and contributor to Theodore Roosevelt Association, founded in 1919.
Childhood, family and education
Wiegand was born in 1965 in the Chicago area, the youngest of three brothers, to Jim and Joan Wiegand. In 1980, the Wiegand family moved to Hollywood, California, where a younger brother and sister were born to the family. Always active in politics and national causes, in 1981, Joe's parents launched “Walkin’ Proud, Talkin’ Loud for America” a twenty-two state, one hundred and sixty-city cross-country tour of America. The family tour started in Los Angeles, California on July 4 and arrived at the White House on September 17, Citizenship Day. The tour had sought to emphasize the duties of citizenship and the importance of patriotism. Joe served as the family's advance man and press secretary for this project.
In 1982, Wiegand was elected the president of American Legion Boys Nation, and Joe went to the Washington, DC to meet Vice President George H. W. Bush, Congressman Phil Crane and the Leadership Institute’s Morton Blackwell. Wiegand attended The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, on a Harry S Truman Scholarship. During Wiegand's junior year, he met Jenny Cook. In 1985, Wiegand was named by Time Magazine as one of America’s Top 100 College students. Wiegand finished his college work, winning a Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Fellowship. In 1987, Joe and Jenny married at Old St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore. For his Watson Fellowship, Joe travelled to Costa Rica and South Africa to interview members of their respective national legislatures. After completing her teaching assignment, Jenny joined Joe as he completed legislative interviews in Italy, the Philippines and South Korea. After nearly a year overseas, they moved to DeKalb, Illinois, where Joe enrolled in the political science graduate school at Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies. After his first year of graduate school, Joe was awarded a Michael Curry public administration internship with the Illinois Department of Public Aid and its Project Chance welfare-to-work program.
Returning to Washington for a Leadership Institute Youth Campaign School, Wiegand joined the head of the British Youth for Thatcher campaign, and trained as a youth campaign organizers. He was then employed by Congressman Phil Crane’s suburban Chicago re-election campaigns, completing a TONYA public affairs internship with Congressman Crane in Washington, D.C., serving as a legislative assistant on foreign affairs issues. In 1989, Joe joined the Republican Illinois Senate Campaign and the DeKalb County-based candidacy of Nancy Beasley, a Republican candidate from Sycamore, Illinois. At the end of the campaign and two years of graduate school, Joe left college to pursue opportunities in the private sector. In 1990, Wiegand started Precision Polling, a professional public opinion polling firm, with business partner, Phil Kaim. After polling for state senate candidate Chris Lauzen (R. – Aurora), Joe was offered the opportunity (his first) to manage a political campaign. Wiegand and Lauzen, a CPA with an MBA from Harvard, joined forces to beat DuPage Republican Chairman, Pate Philip’s hand-chosen candidate, Bob Schillerstrom, and two other candidates in a four-way primary election in 1992. After Lauzen’s election, Wiegand returned to private sector sales, launching successful new products in new markets for a DeKalb manufacturer.
In 1994, Wiegand ran in the primary for the Republican nomination in the 68th State House District covering northern DeKalb, eastern Winnebago and all of Boone Counties. The candidate won endorsement of the Chicago Tribune. He carried 33% of the vote losing to former State Representative, Ron Wait (R.- Belvidere), whom he subsequently endorsed. By 1996, Wiegand was elected to the DeKalb County Board of Supervisors. The same year, he was hired by Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for a Sound Economy to manage their new Illinois chapter promoting lower taxes and smaller government. On May 31, 1998, the Wiegands' daughter Samantha was born. In 1999, Wiegand sponsored a successful County tax cap referendum and led successful efforts to defeat sales tax increases. That same year, Wiegand announced he would not seek re-election to the county board, opting instead to assist CSE and others in state Supreme Court elections. In 2000, Wiegand joined Jack Roeser’s Family Taxpayers Network, a statewide grassroots organization, as executive director. At FTN, Wiegand led statewide efforts to recruit and train candidates and volunteers. In 2002, Wiegand was re-elected to the DeKalb County Board, where he continued his efforts to lower taxes. In 2003, Wiegand announced his candidacy for the 70th District State House, encompassing eastern Ogle, northern LaSalle and central and southern DeKalb Counties. In a surprise to the electorate, the incumbent died. After suspending his campaign, Wiegand re-engaged the primary against the appointed replacement to whom he lost the primary 55% to 45% but endorsed the winner, Bob Pritchard (R. – Hinckley). In April, , Wiegand left FTN to accept the position of campaign manager for the gubernatorial candidacy of Republican businessman Jim Oberweis. In 2007, Wiegand began re-enacting 26th US President, Theodore Roosevelt.
Theodore Roosevelt Association participation and support
Wiegand is a regular attendant of almost all symposia, special events and annual meetings organized by the Theodore Roosevelt Association. In 2007, for example, Wiegand attended the symposium on Roosevelt given at Harvard University that included a trip to the Portsmouth Naval Base and the "Treaty Room" where the peace between Russia and Japan was negotiated in 1904.
The Great 2008 T.R. Tour
In 2008, Wiegand's started what he termed "The Great 2008 T.R. Tour" that was designed to visit the contiguous forty-eight states and which was to conclude with a celebration of T.R.'s 150th birthday on October 27 in Washington, DC. Wiegand extending the celebratory tour until March 4, 2009, one hundred years to the day of Theodore Roosevelt's last day as President of the United States. On October 26, Wiegand's one-man-show as Theodore Roosevelt was featured in a free, public performance at the Theodore Roosevelt birthplace, located at 28 East 20th Street, New York City, New York. That night, Wiegand flew to Washington, DC to reprise TR in the White House on the following day, TR's 150th Birthday.
Reprising Theodore Roosevelt at the White House
In late 2008, Wiegand performed on the 150th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's birth at the White House before an audience including President and Mrs. George W. Bush. and a large audience. Wiegand was described in Northern Illinois University's description of the performance as having "an amazing physical resemblance to a young and vigorous Theodore Roosevelt." After the performance, President Bush noted, "Oftentimes people ask me, 'Do you ever see any of the ghosts of your predecessors here in the White House?' I said, 'No, I quit drinking.' But I just saw one". In a note to Wiegand, President Bush wrote, "Thank you. Your spirited performance for Theodore Roosevelt's 150th birthday celebration at the White House was a great way to commemorate the many accomplishments of our 26th President. I appreciate your help in making the event memorable for all our guests."
Touring the United States portraying Theodore Roosevelt
From 2010 through 2015, Wiegand continued to portray Roosevelt Coast-to-Coast.