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Quotational Therapy: Part 35 -- Teddy Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life"-


This is one of the more relevant quotational therapy sessions yet. Be sure to read the entire text if you have the time:

I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.

A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual....

We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed....

When men fear work or fear righteous war, when women fear motherhood, they tremble on the brink of doom; and well it is that they should vanish from the earth, where they are fit subjects for the scorn of all men and women who are themselves strong and brave and high-minded.

As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat....

If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill....

We have a given problem to solve. If we undertake the solution, there is, of course, always danger that we may not solve it aright; but to refuse to undertake the solution simply renders it certain that we cannot possibly solve it aright. The timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized man, who has lost the great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mind, whose soul is incapable of feeling the mighty lift that thrills "stern men with empires in their brains"—all these, of course, shrink from seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing us build a navy and an army adequate to our needs; shrink from seeing us do our share of the world's work, by bringing order out of chaos....

We cannot sit huddled within our own borders and avow ourselves merely an assemblage of well-to-do hucksters who care nothing for what happens beyond. Such a policy would defeat even its own end; for as the nations grow to have ever wider and wider interests, and are brought into closer and closer contact, if we are to hold our own in the struggle for naval and commercial supremacy, we must build up our power without our own borders....

If we drove out a medieval tyranny only to make room for savage anarchy, we had better not have begun the task at all. It is worse than idle to say that we have no duty to perform, and can leave to their fates the islands we have conquered. Such a course would be the course of infamy. It would be followed at once by utter chaos in the wretched islands themselves. Some stronger, manlier power would have to step in and do the work, and we would have shown ourselves weaklings, unable to carry to successful completion the labors that great and high-spirited nations are eager to undertake.

The work must be done; we cannot escape our responsibility; and if we are worth our salt, we shall be glad of the chance to do the work—glad of the chance to show ourselves equal to one of the great tasks set modern civilization. But let us not deceive ourselves as to the importance of the task. Let us not be misled by vainglory into underestimating the strain it will put on our powers. Above all, let us, as we value our own self-respect, face the responsibilities with proper seriousness, courage, and high resolve. We must demand the highest order of integrity and ability in our public men who are to grapple with these new problems. We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources....

Read the "Congressional Record." Find out the senators and congressmen who opposed the grants for building the new ships; who opposed the purchase of armor, without which the ships were worthless; who opposed any adequate maintenance for the Navy Department, and strove to cut down the number of men necessary to man our fleets. The men who did these things were one and all working to bring disaster on the country. They have no share in the glory of Manila, in the honor of Santiago. They have no cause to feel proud of the valor of our sea-captains, of the renown of our flag. Their motives may or may not have been good, but their acts were heavily fraught with evil. They did ill for the national honor, and we won in spite of their sinister opposition....

A man's first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a freeman. In the same way, while a nation's first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.

In the West Indies and the Philippines alike we are confronted by most difficult problems. It is cowardly to shrink from solving them in the proper way; for solved they must be, if not by us, then by some stronger and more manful race. If we are too weak, too selfish, or too foolish to solve them, some bolder and abler people must undertake the solution. Personally, I am far too firm a believer in the greatness of my country and the power of my countrymen to admit for one moment that we shall ever be driven to the ignoble alternative....

I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.

Read the entire speech here.

This is an amazing speech, given by President Theodore Roosevelt, on April 10, 1899. The U.S. had interests in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, and there were insurgencies and other opposition groups of various sorts in each location. Much of the American nation wanted to cut and run, especially in the Philippines. Isolationism was a profound force in U.S. politics at the time, and Teddy Roosevelt's call for American resolve was a daring political move, not the easy way out.

President Bush probably needs to give a speech like this soon on the issue of Iraq. Squishy Americans-- the ones who supported the Iraq war in the beginning but now are peeling off-- need to be slapped around a bit, rhetorically. Their comfort zones need breaching.

Unfortunately, because of the steady, left-leaning media drumbeat of "the-sky-is-falling" coverage that is still so pervasive and influential in America today, people need reminding of why the Iraq mission is just, why it is noble, and why it is necessary.

And this is so hard to understand for someone who tries to put any individual development in a long-term, ecumenical context.

It seems like the American people "get it" from time to time, immediately following an important speech by the President on Iraq. But then, over a few months, they begin forgetting, or changing their minds, or going wobbly, or otherwise flip-flopping.

The ones who have changed their minds on Iraq must be made to feel embarrassed for such weak-knee-edness, but reassured that there is a place for returning fair-weather fans in the home team stadium.

They must be reminded that the U.S. is going to finish the job, and that we'll be better off for it, that the Iraqis will be better off for it, and that the world will be better off for it.

The American people need to be poked a bit, reminded that we're in a war we didn't start, a war that we must finish. Fighting the Global War On Terror is not optional. War requires resolve, and sacrifice, and determination, and stoicism, and dedication, and seriousness. And we'll lose the war if Americans fail to embrace those values.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

President George W. Bush On The Global War On Terror.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 August 2005 01:32 PM


I do wish that GW would do just that and give a rousing speech to the American public as you just stated. It's amazing those 50 protesters are given so much attention down in Crawford. Our media is in a drastic decline.

Posted by: Jim Hoft at August 12, 2005 03:50 PM

I feel really bad for that mother!... I hope I never have to experience what she has gone through! However... She really needs someone close to her to tell her she needs to go home and greive in private! Her son died fighting for freedom and democracy. No one likes War! Our country was attacked and thousands of unsuspecting innocent lives were lost! Our President has delivered many great speeches. The President has already spoken with this lady anyway! Bless her heart! I hope she can get some help soon!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at August 12, 2005 05:35 PM

I would assume the "squishies" are the ones that feared either Iraqi WMDs or Iraqi connections to 9/11. Given that those fears lost their mooring, I'm not sure that "a strenuous life" can be substituted.

Remember the other guy, who said "nothing to fear but fear itself?" We (as a nation) feared fear itself, and acted out on that basis.

FWIW, here's my blurb:

I opposed this war, but not forcefully enough, or actively enough. All I did was write a few letters. I tried to explain my opposition in terms of realpolitik, and blowback (in the geopolitical sense). I was very aware, having worked with immigrant-engineers from around the world, that folks outside the US already tended to see the U.S. military and the CIA behind every tree. They already had bitter memories of past adventures. I did not see how a US-led intervention could generate anything other than more blowback, for more generations.

In my futile letters, I told the President that if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, then he should continue to make that case to the UN, and ultimately go into Iraq under the UN banner. My reasoning was that a UN effort would not be seen as an East-West culture war (with religious echoes going back centuries, with complete Muslim-world blowback potential), but instead as a believable “UN Police Action.”

This is a stupid war. This is a stupid post. I don’t like writing it. But inspired by Mr. William F. Buckley’s public comments, I’ll force myself to say something …

Declare Victory, Go Home.

Posted by: odograph at August 13, 2005 05:33 PM