Leading Blog


« Mark Twain on Leadership | Leading Blog Main Page | Leading Outside the Lines: Mobilizing the Informal Organization »



04.23.10

Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech 100th Anniversary

Sarbonne
One hundred years ago today, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Sorbonne in the Grand Amphitheater at the University of Paris. He had come to Paris with his son Kermit, just days before—by way of the Orient Express—to give his Citizenship in a Republic speech.

The speech emphasized his belief that the success of a republic rested not on the brilliance of its citizens but on disciplined work and character; the quality of its people. He told the audience: “Self-restraint, self-mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution—these are the qualities which mark a masterful people.” And importantly, a democracy needed leaders of the highest caliber in order to hold the average citizen to a high standard. They were to do this not by words alone but by their deeds as well. “Indeed, it is a sign of marked political weakness in any commonwealth if the people tend to be carried away by mere oratory, if they tend to value words in and for themselves, as divorced from the deeds for which they are supposed to stand.”

Roosevelt firmly believed that one learned by doing. It is better to stumble than to do nothing or to sit by and criticize those that are “in the arena” he explained. “The poorest way to face life is with a sneer.” It is a sign of weakness. “To judge a man merely by success,” he said, “is an abhorrent wrong.” The famous paragraph from that speech, reproduced below, expressed the standard by which he judged himself and others:
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, and 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 know neither victory nor defeat.
Read the complete text of that speech: Citizenship in a Republic by Theodore Roosevelt

Trivia: Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to fly an airplane, to own a car, to have a telephone in his home and travel outside the borders of the U.S. while still in office.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:39 AM
| Comments (5) | TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leading Speeches



TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.leadershipnow.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/734

Comments

Terrific post! Thank you for reminding us of this important anniversary--and let us hope that our current generations, at the dawn of the 21st century, can elaborate and advance enduring leadership principles in the Theodore Roosevelt tradition. LeadershipNow is invaluable, inspiring us to recognize and meet the challenge.

Thanks James. I appreciate the kinds words and better yet coming from the man that wrote the book on TR and leadership! (Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit). By the way, I am enjoying your latest book, Serve to Lead. As you write, “Everyone can lead because everyone can serve.” Solid foundation.

Love this speech. Thanks for tipping me off to its anniversary.

Michael, this is a great speech by Teddy Roosevelt. Thanks for educating us on his vision of success and how it is better to fail than to never have taken a risk.

Great post. Isn't it amazing that 100 years ago, Teddy could espouse the virtues of risking failure and yet so many of us today are paralyzed into micromanagement to avoid risk?

Interesting stuff!

Landon

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)






Copyright ©1998-2012 LeadershipNow / M2 Communications All Rights Reserved
All materials contained in http://www.LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, noncommercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited. LeadershipNow is a trademark of M2 Communications.