The Man in the Arena

On April 23, 1910, Rough Rider President Theodore Roosevelt gave one of the most powerful speeches of his life at the Sorbonne in Paris.

I first learned about this great man when I was growing up and visited the Menger Hotel in San Antonio where Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders. I certainly feel gratitude for this conservationist and naturalist every time I visit one of America’s national parks for forests. The speech he gave in Paris after his presidency has made a lasting impact on me and many others.

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” Roosevelt said as he railed against cynics who looked down at men who were trying to make the world a better place. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities—all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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