"Man in the Arena"

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Man in the Arena

The Man in the Arena is a part of a speech delivered by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris over a century ago on April 23, 1910. The following is what historians call the Man in the Arena paragraph.

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.

Over a half century ago, I stood in front of my English teacher in high school and recited Man in the Arena. While I was able to memorize that paragraph, I did not fully understand Roosevelt's message. A half century later, I have gotten the message. Over those five decades since memorizing that single paragraph, I have been successful in some very important things. However, I have not always succeeded. I have failed at both petty and important things during my adult life.

My personal experiences of success and failure are like everyone else's. We win some battles in the arena of life while we lose some. Some people cringe at loss and do not try again. Others fill themselves with hubris and strut upon the stage of life as Macbeth did "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Roosevelt wants us all to enter the arena and fight the good fight not all puffed up with talk.

Roosevelt challenges us to live life to the fullest. Then he adds, "...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."

Once you are able to internalize Man in the Arena and make it a part of your being, it is transformative in every aspect of life. Fifty years ago, I was able to memorize this paragraph, but I did not fully comprehend what Roosevelt meant. I get it now.

This is a video about Roosevelt's trip to the Sorbonne and a reading of Man in the Arena.

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