Teddy Roosevelt and The Man in the Arena

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.

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Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

When I first arrived in Washington, D.C. many years ago as fresh-faced lad freshly graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, one of the first places I was able to feed myself was at Arena Stage reading scripts at $10 a pop for Lloyd Rose and Jerry Manning. Arena Stage is one of the best professional regional theatres in the world — they were one of the first theatres to employ an acting core on a full time basis — and Zelda Fichandler created Arena Stage out of nothing and ran it for 40 years from 1950 to 1990 until she moved to New York University in 1987 to run the graduate school acting program.

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Arguing Against Arena Learning

In a recent article I wrote — Arguing Against Corridor Teaching — I made the case that students must be required to think universally and not in narrow niches of comfort.  Today, I challenge universities to honor that teaching code by requiring intimate learning opportunities in all circumstances they control.  You create that kind of careful environment using small class sizes and not
giant auditoriums.

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