Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why I like Teddy Roosevelt

Every once in a while, some disgruntled reader sends me the extracted quote from President Roosevelt that begins "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..."

Usually, the sender is trying to say that arts critics are idiots (often because he has disagreed with me) or have no value. This isn't what Roosevelt was saying at all, if you read the whole quote. But today, I decided to read the whole speech. It's an address from April 23, 1910, to the Sorbonne titled "Citizenship in a Republic." And it's one of the most commonsensical, intelligent definitions of the rights and responsibilities of those of us who live in a republic that I have ever read.

I hope folks of all political persuasions will take the time to consider it. (Here's the text: But in the spirit of a critic judging a work of literature -- one he never thought to read but much enjoyed -- here are three of my favorite excerpts.

"The average citizen must be a good citizen, if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national
greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher."

"In every civilized society, property rights must be carefully safeguarded. Ordinarily, and in the great majority of cases, human rights and property rights are fundamentally and in the long run identical. But when it clearly appears that there is a real conflict between them, human rights must have the upper hand, for property belongs to man and not man to property."

"Perhaps the most important thing the ordinary citizen, and, above all, the leader of ordinary citizens, has to remember in political life is that he must not be a sheer doctrinaire...The one-sided fanatic, and still more the mob-leader, and the insincere man who to achieve power promises what by no possibility can be performed, are not merely useless but noxious."

A wise man, TR.


Anonymous said...

Roosevelt was a force of nature. An intelligent and courageous man who knew his own mind and acted on his convictions. A great American.