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Roosevelt's Man in the Arena Speech

Among the many attributes of Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy was his ability to compose insightful and penetrating speeches that, by accounts of his audiences, were impressive in their commanding delivery. His voice was said to modulate in pitches low to high, and his natural charisma was always mesmerizing.

Delivering an address in Paris at the legendary Sorbonne on this date in 1910, TR with his typical two-fisted rhetoric, performed a speech for the ages on the peculiar and muscular challenges of citizenship in a republic. Lines from the address are literally etched in stone on the pedestal of TR’s giant statue on Roosevelt Island between Washington D.C. and Arlington.  Today, the memorable lines are known as the Man in the Arena speech. Here’s a portion of those unique insights:

“Strange and impressive associations rise in the mind of a man from the new world who speaks before this august body in this ancient institution of learning. This was the most famous university of medieval Europe at a time when no one dreamed that there was a new world to discover. 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.”

Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

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