The people's voice of reason

The Man in the Arena

I think one of my favorite U.S. Presidents would have to be Teddy Roosevelt. He was so full of life and accomplished a great deal. “The Man in the Arena” is also one of my favorite quotes:

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; 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

Teddy Roosevelt was definitely a man unafraid to stand up and fight for what he believed in. He was the man in the arena. The following gives you a quick overview of his life.

With the assassination of President McKinley, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation’s history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward needed reforms and a strong foreign policy.

He took the view that the President as a “steward of the people” should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution.” I did not usurp power,” he wrote, “but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.”

Roosevelt’s youth differed sharply from that of the log cabin Presidents. He was born in New York City in 1858 into a wealthy family, but he too struggled–against ill health–and in his triumph became an advocate of the strenuous life.

In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother died on the same day. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. There he mastered his sorrow as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game–he even captured an outlaw. On a visit to London, he married Edith Carow in December 1886.

During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, which he led on a charge at the battle of San Juan, near Santiago, Cuba. He was one of the most conspicuous heroes of the war and returned to the U.S. with great fanfare.

In New York State, soon after his victorious return from Cuba, Roosevelt became the Republican candidate for Governor in 1898. Roosevelt won and served with distinction. Later, as President, Roosevelt steered the United States more actively into world politics. He liked to quote a favorite West African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick…”. Aware of the strategic need for a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, Roosevelt ensured the construction of the Panama Canal. This would prove to be a huge asset for the USA and the world.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War, reached a Gentleman’s Agreement on immigration with Japan, and sent the Great White Fleet on a goodwill tour of the world. Some of Theodore Roosevelt’s most effective achievements were in conservation. He added enormously to the national forests in the West, reserved lands for public use, and fostered great irrigation projects.

He crusaded endlessly on matters big and small, exciting audiences with his high-pitched voice, jutting jaw, and pounding fist. “The life of strenuous endeavor” was a must for those around him, as he romped with his five younger children and led ambassadors on hikes through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

Leaving the Presidency in 1909, Roosevelt went on an African safari, then jumped back into politics. In 1912 he ran for President on a Progressive ticket. To reporters he once remarked that he felt as fit as a bull moose. After that “The Bull Moose Party” became the nickname of the Progressive Party. While campaigning in Milwaukee, he was shot in the chest by a fanatic. He went ahead and spoke for 80 minutes while bleeding with a bullet in his chest. What? Yes, that is absolutely true. Wow!

Teddy Roosevelt lived out his quote – “The Man in the Arena”. His life and his words challenge me to live life to the fullest and to make a difference in other people’s lives as I stand up for what I believe.

Jesus told us that he came so that we might have life and live it to the fullest (John 10:10). He also told us that if we seek to give our lives for the sake of others, we will find true life.

“Whoever tries to save their life will lose it. Whoever seeks to lose their life (for my sake and others) will find it.” Luke 17:33

So, my question for you and me is this: Are you the critic? Or are you the one in the arena fighting for what is right and fighting for the betterment of others?

My prayer for you and for me is that we would, like Teddy Roosevelt, live life to the fullest as we seek to get in the arena and fight for what we believe is best for everyone! I want to be the man in the arena – not the critic! Amen?


Dr Lester Spencer

Lead Pastor

Saint James Church


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