The Man in the Arena

By | April 28, 2021

[April 28, 2021]  One hundred-one years ago, in April 1910, Theodore Roosevelt spoke about citizenry in a Republic.  His speech in Sorbonne Paris is popularly known as ‘The Man in the Arena.‘ An oft-repeated theme of my leadership blog deals with individual responsibility, and Roosevelt won great acclaim for his emphasis on personal duty and accountability.

If anything, Roosevelt was a man of action.  His safaris in Africa, his combat role in the Spanish American War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, negotiating peace in the Russo-Japanese War, and establishing National Parks, he epitomized a man on a mission to place the United States in a position of world leadership.

 “The success of republics like yours and like ours means the glory, and our failure the despair, of mankind, and for you and for us the question of the quality of the individual citizen is supreme.”

His ability to distinguish clearly between a democracy and other forms of government was striking.  However, his main contribution was to demonstrate that an informed, responsible, duty-filled citizen from democratically elected nations is necessary, the foundation of a prosperous country.

Under other forms of government, under the rule of one man or very few men, the quality of the leaders is all-important.”

In contrast, one-man rule governments require excellence in the leader himself, not in the people.  He says that the average citizen’s quality is unimportant because that citizen is an almost negligible quality in working out the greatness or disappointment of that type of nation.

“Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one.”

In his speech, Roosevelt also warns those who come from privileged circumstances, that there is a strong temptation to intellectual laziness, nihilism, and cynicism.  That such men are less worthy of respect, who hold the attitude that a great society cannot be achieved since humanity is too flawed.

“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 …

 In his most famous line, Theodore Roosevelt gives us his philosophy of the idealism of a man who acts, not out of fear but out of self-knowledge, that our society will not survive without him.

 … 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.”

Theodore Roosevelt was certainly that man in the arena.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “The Man in the Arena

  1. Kenny Foster

    Got my morning cup of hot coffee, sitting back in my easy chair, and with my dog at my side, I’m reading your blog on Teddy Roosevelt with a smile. Teddy was a great man because he is what you call the ‘man in the arena.’ A man of action. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Get ‘er done! Wow, this is what the epitome of leadership is all about.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Good comment, Kenny. Well said. All in line with an old theme of Gen. Satterfield that those who “do” are those that lead.

  2. Dead Pool Guy

    Gen. Satterfield, I signed onto your website this morning and found this article a positive sign that I will have a great day. Nothing like getting a little shot in the arm from such a positive website. I’m encouraged rather than disappointed (like when I read the news). Keep on truckin.

    1. Paul D. Sanders

      Yeah, “keep on truckin.” Great stuff. I would recommend that we provide Gen. Satterfield with suggested material for his blog. I’m sure he would appreciate it. Just a simple suggestion.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      That is why I keep coming back. I also like to put up ideas and see what others have to say. And, here they do it politely with good arguments.

  3. Jeremy M. Jones

    Excellent article on one of the great US Presidents. Not like Joe Biden who is the laughing stock of the world.

  4. Max Foster

    T.R., says that those who are privileged have a strong temptation to intellectual laziness, nihilism, and cynicism. I would go further when looking at people in the USA today. we are all tempted to these failures of the mind. It is all wrapped up in our victimhood ideology that loves the loser. LOSER! Get it, you are a loser if you adopt the socialist ideology.

    1. old warrior

      Max, lots of losers out there who think we pity them, — well I do pity them but will give them nothing. Why? Because they deserve nothing at all. Let them starve. Some one needs to kick them in the ass.

  5. JT Patterson

    “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 …”
    Great quote.

  6. Steve Dade

    “Man in the Arena,” as we know, is a compliment to those who prefer action over mellie-mouth words.

    1. Audrey

      Steve, hammer to the floor. Go get those who prefer to be weak and encourage weakness by pandering to failures. Winning is what the world is about, regardless of how you do it (well, morally any way). 😊 My neighbor is a teenage girl basketball coach. His teams always win because the WORK HARD at getting down the fundamentals. All other teams are just “wimps.”

      1. Ronny Fisher

        Winner or loser, which one would you want to be? I’ll bet the girls team that wins has a grand time playing basketball. They play for fun and for sport.

      2. Greg Heyman

        Good thing, Audrey. Fully in line with Gen. Satterfield blog this morning. I always come here for my morning dose of leadership. I’m one of the long-time readers and I comment when I can.

  7. Stacey Borden

    T. Roosevelt, great president … strong, doesn’t tolerate idiots, man of action … man in the arena.


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