“The Man in the Arena”

On April 23, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech, “Citizenship in a Republic” at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. In a section of that speech, he spoke about what is affectionately known as “The Man in the Arena.”

“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.”

These powerful words are just as applicable today as they were over 100 years ago. What I find fascinating about these words – as President Roosevelt laid the case and cause for our nation and the important role we play for freedom – is how applicable they are to the role that we play as dads in creating courageous sons and daughters. In addressing how the United States and other republics are different, he states the following:

“If, under such governments, the quality of the rulers is high enough, then the nations for generations lead a brilliant career, and add substantially to the sum of world achievement, no matter how low the quality of average citizen; because the average citizen is an almost negligible quantity in working out the final results of that type of national greatness. But with you and us the case is different. With you here, and with us in my own home, in the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average women, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.”

 I believe one of the reasons there is a breakdown in the family today is that we have become blinded to the reality that our great nation is only as great as the stability of our families. This is not a political statement. This is a statement about the important role we play as dads in the “arena of our home.” Are we intentional about molding and shaping our children with “heroic virtues” or are we just concerned about getting them to their activities?

Are you “daring greatly” when it comes to your family? If not, become the “man in the arena” that Roosevelt illustrated. Hopefully, I will see you in there.