Teddy Roosevelt’s word ring as true today as the day he spoke them, but they have taken on new meaning for me as I look around at a world that is weak, soft, and so easily offended that we dare not look crosseyed at another without creating some objectionable offense. Here is what Roosevelt had to say:
“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.”
My father was a hard man and I spent many a year whining and complaining about the perceived injustices I incurred at his hand. Now I have only gratitude for the tough old bird. I remember the wrestling mats and boxing gloves in the basement (used to settle scores with my siblings). I remember four older brothers who taught me you don’t run from a fight (unless you want a beatdown at home). I remember people trying to bully me on the playground, mock and tease me out of pure meanness, the merciless hazing it took to join a sports team in high school, and pledge week activities in college. In other words, I am no stranger to feeling the hammer of life coming crashing down on me from time to time. The Result: I am better for it.
I long for the world where we can tell people to quit whining and get over it. A world where you were expected to step up, rather than have all of society lower her standards of excellence for a minority of people. Resistance makes you strong, complacency and apathy cause your body and your spirit to atrophy.
The spirit of America isn’t entrepreneurship, or capitalism, or a free-market system. The spirit of America came through the indomitable spirit of men and women who knew how to fight for what they wanted; men and women who would enter the arena and dare greatly; people of courage, conviction, and determination. We are dangerously close to breeding these qualities out of of the next generation. I don’t know about you, but I will not be counted with those “cold timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”