One of the most interesting and courageous American statesmen was Theodore Roosevelt.
The 26th President of the United States was a man of many passions, political views, and contradictions. I don’t know that it would be possible to say that anyone could agree with everything he tried to do or did.
Besides serving as President, he was an author, naturalist, soldier, boxer, explorer, hunter, and historian. He is best known for his large personality and his “cowboy” image.
Credible historians point out that after a series of weak and somewhat corrupt presidents, Roosevelt changed the nation’s political system by permanently placing the presidency at center stage and making character as important as the issues.
His most notable crusades were trust busting and conservationism. Interestingly, he was beloved by leftists for his proposals in 1907–12 that set the stage for the modern welfare state of the New Deal Era. They also admired the importance that Roosevelt placed on the idea of a more powerful federal government.
Yet, conservatives admired his “big stick” diplomacy and commitment to military values. Roosevelt moved America toward the imperial approach of national security. He should be credited as the first President to begin preparing the American military to have a global role in the violent years to come.
Perhaps because of his sickly childhood, Roosevelt was the last President to hold the strong belief that “physical bravery was the highest virtue and war the ultimate test of bravery.”
The most admiring aspect of Roosevelt’s persona was his real life example of American masculinity. As president, he repeatedly warned American men that they were becoming too office-bound, too complacent, too comfortable with physical ease, and were failing in their duties to exhibit masculine vigor.
He put his words into action by heavily promoting competitive sports and the Boy Scouts of America as the way forward. Heroic displays of bravery were essential to Roosevelt’s image and mission to get involved in the arena of life with tremendous vigor. This is best illustrated when he led the “Roughriders” into battle against Spain in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
While Roosevelt made countless speeches and wrote many essays about the virtues of a vigorous life, the most famous excerpt from a speech that summarizes this “Man in the Arena” is the following:
“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.”
Wow. Pure inspiration.
Theodore Roosevelt will always have a unique place in world history as one of those men who would be difficult not to respect and honor.
Perhaps that is the reason that his face will for hundreds, maybe thousands of years look upon the Black Hills of South Dakota at Mount Rushmore.