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Teddy Roosevelt on Citizenship in a Republic

After serving two terms as 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a tour of Northern Africa and Europe in 1910, attending events and giving speeches in places like Cairo, Berlin, Naples and Oxford.

On April 23 1910, Roosevelt delivered a speech on “Citizenship in a Republic” at the Sorbonne in Paris. In the speech, he spoke about his family history, war, human and property rights, and the responsibilities of citizenship. “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities—all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.” (McCarthy, 2015, updated 2020)

This month, April 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Roosevelt’s inspirational, impassioned – and lengthy – speech. It was very well received and came to be known by many as “The Man in the Arena”.

This excerpt is the most famous paragraph:

“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, and 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 know neither victory nor defeat.

Roosevelt, who had been sickly and had a speech impediment as a child, was known to be a masterful public speaker as an adult. “Citizenship in a Republic” was perhaps his greatest rhetorical triumph. The speech ran in the Journal des Debats as a Sunday supplement. It was sent to all the teachers in France by Le Temps. Librairie Hachette printed it on Japanese vellum. It was turned into a pocket book that sold 5,000 copies in five days. And it was translated into many European languages. Roosevelt, Morris writes, “was surprised at its success, admitting to Henry Cabot Lodge that the reaction of the French was ‘a little difficult for me to understand.’” (Young, 2017)

See Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic: The Man in the Arena to read the text of the entire speech.

Source: Voices of Democracy – University of Maryland

Roosevelt, who had been sickly and had a speech impediment as a child, was known to be a masterful public speaker as an adult. “Citizenship in a Republic” was perhaps his greatest rhetorical triumph. The speech ran in the Journal des Debats as a Sunday supplement. It was sent to all the teachers in France by Le Temps. Librairie Hachette printed it on Japanese vellum. It was turned into a pocket book that sold 5,000 copies in five days. And it was translated into many European languages. Roosevelt, Morris writes, “was surprised at its success, admitting to Henry Cabot Lodge that the reaction of the French was ‘a little difficult for me to understand.’” (Young, 2017)

See Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic: The Man in the Arena to read the text of the entire speech.

On October 14, 1912 while campaigning in Milwaukee for a third term as president, Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest by John Flammang Schrank, a Bavarian born saloon keeper from New York City who had been stalking him for weeks with the goal of killing him. At his trial, Schrank claimed that William McKinley, the 25 President of the US, “had visited him in a dream and told him to avenge his assassination by killing Roosevelt”. McKinley’s assassination had made his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, President. (enWikipedia, 1 April 2020)

The bullet, shot at close range, “penetrated Roosevelt’s heavy overcoat and into the right side of his chest. Inside the breast pocket were two items that absorbed the impact and undoubtedly saved Roosevelt’s life. The first was a thick fifty-page speech manuscript folded in half. Behind that was a metal eyeglass case in which Roosevelt kept his spectacles.

“After he was hit, Roosevelt tottered a bit, then fell into the seat beneath him. Elbert Martin, his stenographer and a former football player, immediately jumped out of the car and wrestled Schrank to the ground, stopping the man who was aiming to fire again. “He doesn’t know what he is doing,” Roosevelt shouted, “Don’t strike the poor creature.” The wounded Roosevelt was able to restore order to the chaos at the scene before police arrived and took Schrank into custody.” (Thomas, 2019)

Roosevelt began his speech requesting his audience “to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.”

The audience in the Milwaukee Auditorium “gasped as the former president unbuttoned his vest to reveal his bloodstained shirt. ‘It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,’ the wounded candidate assured them. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a bullet-riddled, 50-page speech. Holding up his prepared remarks, which had two big holes blown through each page, Roosevelt continued. ‘Fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet—there is where the bullet went through—and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.’” (Klein, 2012, updated 2019)

He then spoke for the next 84 minutes. Only after his speech had been delivered did he agree to be taken to a hospital in Chicago to be operated on.

Bullet holes in Roosevelt’s speech manuscript

Bullet hole in Roosevelt’s glasses case, carried in his breast pocket

After losing that 1912 election to pacifist Woodrow Wilson, Roosevelt embarked on a seven month, 15,000 mile expedition into the Amazonian jungles of Brazil to explore the River of Doubt with his son, Kermit. After returning to the US, he spent the rest of his days writing scientific essays and history books. (Milkis, 2019)

“Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger.”

-Theodore Roosevelt, 1894

REFERENCES

Cain, A. (2017). US President Theodore Roosevelt once delivered an 84-minute speech after getting shot in the chest. See: https://www.businessinsider.com/teddy-roosevelt-assassination-attempt-2017-6

enWikipedia. (1 April 2020). John Flammang Schrank. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Flammang_Schrank

Klein, C. (2012, updated 2019). When Teddy Roosevelt Was Shot in 1912, a Speech May Have Saved His Life: “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” See: https://www.history.com/news/shot-in-the-chest-100-years-ago-teddy-roosevelt-kept-on-talking

McCarthy, E. (2015, updated 2020).Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena”. See: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/63389/roosevelts-man-arena

Milkis, S. (2019). THEODORE ROOSEVELT: LIFE AFTER THE PRESIDENCY. The Miller Center. See: https://millercenter.org/president/roosevelt/life-after-the-presidency

Roosevelt, T. (2019). Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizenship in a Republic: The Man in the Arena. Text of the entire speech. LeadershipNow.com. See: https://www.leadershipnow.com/tr-citizenship.html

Thomas, H. (2019). The Pocket Items That Saved the Life of Theodore Roosevelt. See: https://blogs.loc.gov/headlinesandheroes/2019/07/the-pocket-items-that-saved-the-life-of-theodore-roosevelt/

Young, J.C. (2017). Was Teddy Roosevelt a Good Public Speaker? See: http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2017/08/was-teddy-roosevelt-a-good-public-speaker/

© Copyright 2020. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

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