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Teddy Roosevelt’s Man In The Arena

May 22, 2023

Caricature of U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt drawn by illustrator Mark ArmstrongI’ve been doing caricatures of some American presidents. Here’s Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919) who served as the 26th president (1901-1909). He’s one of the most famous, and even has a spot on Mt. Rushmore, along with heavy hitters Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

He’s remembered mostly today (if at all!) for charging up San Juan Hill in Cuba (I drew him in his old Rough Rider hat), establishing national parks, and saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Oh– and the Teddy Bear (whose origin was a fluke, really).blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I can’t remember how old I was when I first came across his The Man In The Arena speech. It knocked me for a loop. I thought: this is what it’s all about– this is how you live your life.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It was actually part of a speech titled Citizenship in a Republic. He delivered it at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910, after his presidency.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Here’s the small part that’s usually quoted as the Arena speech. It’s only two sentences!!– but the second sentence goes on and on. It’s worth every phrase, tho, and I’ve broken Sentence #2 up for easier reading.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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 the 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.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

You don’t hear speeches like that anymore. It still gives me a tremendous thrill. Too flowery, you say? Too wordy? I disagree. Today’s soundbites don’t have that kind of power. They go in one ear and out the other.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

How many posts have you read on motivation? being proactive? taking risks?? I’ve lost count, they’re all the same. And I think I know why.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They’re all focused on a successful outcome: winning, making it– or, as James Cagey would say: “Top of the world!!”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Roosevelt was reminding us of a deeper truth: that true victory is in the striving, the going for it. Not the win, not the loss, not the outcome.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Sure, we all want to win, to be successful. But Roosevelt knew that striving was the important thing– getting in the arena, taking the blows, giving it your best shot and letting the chips fall where they may.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It reminds me of the lines in Rudyard Kipling‘s famous poem, If:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same… (my emphasis)blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Teddy wasn’t perfect by a long shot. I’m not sure I would have liked him personally. But he wasn’t just paying lip-service to striving. He lived his life in the arena.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We need to do the same.
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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Freddy J. Nager creative strategist USC professor marketing communication

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