The Role of a Citizen

Theodore Roosevelt calls one of my favorite historical speeches “The Man in the Arena”. Theodore Roosevelt was very popular and well known even today. At the very least, you must know him to the extent of the teddy bear being named after him. For a better understanding of his speech you should know that he was very liberal. Especially for his time, he had made and expected a lot of change.

He was the 36th president of the United States. He was president during 1901-1909 during the Progressive Era, in the Republican’s Progressive Party. He was known for starting the Rough Riders, known for marching up Kettle Hill in the Battle of San Juan Hill. In a famous picture of the Rough Riders riding horses up the hill. Though it was a misconception because they had yet to receive horses, as well as the Americans also misnaming the hill they had thought they were on.

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The outcome of that battle was an astonishing victory with many more losses then the Spanish ended up with. After he left presidency, he chose William Howard Taft to succeed him. Taft was his Secretary of War at the time. He was easily elected and began changing some of Roosevelt’s policies such as ‘giving away’ land grants and national parks. In history textbooks Taft was made out to be an awful leader and leads people to believe that he was inconsistent and poisoning Roosevelt’s hard work…but in reality he kept and improved greatly on many of Roosevelt’s decisions. Roosevelt was unhappy with Taft and decided to run again in the 1912 election.

He was shot during his campaign speech but finished entirely with a bullet in him. He did not die and nobody ever attempted to assassinate him again. He proceeded into politics and continued his election against Taft, the running Republican, by creating his own party he named the Bull-Moose party. It received this name because after he was shot he said he “felt as strong as a bull-moose”. The problem with that is that he ended up taking about half the votes from the Republicans, and the Democrats ended up winning.

The Democrats chose Woodrow Wilson and he went into office in 1912, becoming the third progressive president. At the time this speech took place in the 1900s, communism and socialism were huge forces in the world. The Russian Revolution scared the Americans for a while and especially when the Bolsheviks killed and overthrew the czar and his family. They killed his family mainly in hopes that no heirs would arise as an issue in the future. This speech left a huge impression on many. His target audience was the Americans that would be potentially voting for him but he was specifically speaking to French diplomats at a conference in France.

He was trying to persuade people on his opinions of running a republic. It was a long speech but he told stories throughout and kept catching your attention. The name of the speech is due to his belief that the man who does the dirty work deserves the credit, and not the man sitting back and watching. He states many of his beliefs like justice in law whether you be rich or poor, freedom as long as it is to no expense of others, loyalty to the country before any one group, etc. He said that people shouldn’t turn on one another, also described as class envy, or turning against a social class, because those who act on that have reached no success.

He also says things are done better as a group rather then individually. “…the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet acting in conjunction with others is a quality that marks masterful people…” Things are simply done better together. That being said, he believes it to be a waste of energy to help someone who is not willing to help himself. “Every one of us needs a helping hand now and then. But if a man lies down it is a waste of time to try and carry him.

” One of his beliefs is that all dishonest people should be shunned, for they will act on you and against you. A liar is always a liar, a cheater is always a cheater, and a thief is forever a thief. When using an example of a cow-branding scenario he states “Someone who will for me will steal from me.” He stresses the responsibility of the people and their duties and that of the government. He stayed positive but stern and very clear during the speech in its entirety and brought up many ethical appeals such as not to judge one another.

His metaphors, word structures, and phrasing were captivating at times and benefitted his presentation greatly. “…to judge a man merely by success is an abhorrent wrong.” He was a great speaker and this was a phenomenal speech. I only hope people can gain a respect for such a man who speaks his mind even if it is not what’s popular. From that we can learn to be who we are, and with grace comes returned generosity. I’ll close with the most famously known part of his speech… “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.”