On April 23, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt presented a spectacular speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
The title of his argument was — “Citizenship in a Republic” — and here is the famous “Man in The Arena” excerpt:
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.
More than a century has passed since those words were first spoken. Have we taken any of it to heart?
Those words are magnificent and sting many of us today about the reality of living a right, involved, life and not one of compunction and disengagement.
We are honor bound to action — yet many of us allow moral duty and participation to wither to others because we don’t want to get dirty or have people not like us.
So those non-actors among us take the path of least resistance that allows them to stay on the middling narrow with nary a thought about those around them who are suffering and seeking peace and fighting for human relevance.
For those who are not in the arena, their lives are but experiments in pretending and the results are imaginary and dangerous to the citizen core. When we have leaders who push us into war based on lies, and who had no previous service in the arena, we are all exposed as frauds and hucksters under the cover of freedom. We wonder how some men can claim the moral high ground when they have never slept one moment in their own sweat or bathed in the blood of their friends and enemies.
When pretenders set national agendas — the end of the empire is nigh on high — and that ending will be well-deserved, even if ill-gotten, because the people need to be led by earned wisdom and not by a frittering wondering.