What Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man In The Arena” Speech Really Meant

Theodore Roosevelt

 “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, 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.” – Theodore Roosevelt 



The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt  was a man of many endeavours, from author, soldier, statesman, naturalist and reformer who knew a few things about motivating his people. He had a bold nature and was very vocal about the deeper underlying traits that make someone great. He believed that it’s extremely easy to make strong opinions and critique others, while actually going out there and doing it was the difficult part. The Man In the Arena quote, was delivered as a part of the Citizenship In A Republic speech given in Paris. Later, President Richard Nixon was also known to have been inspired by Roosevelt and had used his words of wisdom to remind himself through difficult times and, in fact, relayed the speech during his victory speech and resignation address. Nelson Mandela was also noted for quoting the Man In The Arena speech to the South African Rugby captain prior to the World Cup, the team went on to being victorious. Pop culture wise, it’s been in a Cadillac commercial, tattooed on Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworths’ arms, and Washington Nationals player Mark DeRosa admits to reading it before any big game.

The Man In the Arena is very empowering as it mocks the one who is on the sidelines watching and pointing fingers, criticising every wrong move and perhaps even jumping on board once the victory is complete. Roosevelt’s speech is about giving full credit to the one who is actually out there enduring through the tough times, battling, struggling and fighting through all adversities. Win or lose, succeeding or failing, he praises the efforts of trying rather than fearing the failure and vulnerability altogether. From this speech, it’s obvious he somewhat despised the cynical people who mocked the world changers, possibly because they were too lazy or scared to get out there themselves. And Theodore Roosevelt also gives great honour to the ones who are willing to sacrifice themselves for a worthy cause.


Image Source: