Theodore Roosevelt loved the Navy, especially the fleet of battleships he sponsored during his time as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and President of the United States. For him, the battleships were the "Big Stick" that made his "Speak Softly" foreign policy so effective. During his administration he had turned to the Navy time after time, first to face down the German and British fleets threatening Venezuela's independence in the winter of 1902-03, then to guarantee Panama's independence movement, and later to effect the return of a kidnapped American citizen in Morocco.
The Fleet had become a comforting talisman for Roosevelt when tensions in the international arena began to rise. So as the rhetoric between the United States and Japan turned ugly over California's exclusion of Japanese immigrants from public schools and other social services, TR decided to dispatch the Atlantic Fleet, with its 16 battleships, on a 'round the world cruise.