Today, on the 236th birthday of America I was at the Long Island home of our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. An actor portraying TR did a reenactment of a campaign speech demonstrating that Roosevelt was truly a man for the people of America. His radical progressive ideas: minimum wage, national healthcare, equal rights and opportunities for all, corporate responsibility, campaign reform, and the preservation and management of America’s natural resources were decades ahead of their time. In addition to his Summer residence, there is a fabulous museum that chronicles the life and times of not only one of our most progressive Presidents but also of a man who was a soldier, leader, philanthropist, conservator, watchdog, and promoted the greater good for all at every opportunity. To paraphrase from Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”, for Theodore Roosevelt, “Mankind was his business.”
Although successive Presidents have quoted Theodore Roosevelt and spoken of his ideals, few, if any, have been able to muster the political will or have the political capital to move America as a nation towards his primary ideal of fairness. The role of Government should be to assure a level playing field so that when opportunity arises, ALL the people have an equal chance of realizing the American dream based on ability and not privilege. TR railed against the Special Interests and corruption in Government.
Today’s media and many career politicians find it easier to criticize across the aisle and be muckrakers rather then present and work towards real solutions that benefit “ALL the people.” Instead they focus on finding fault. They focus on what is best for each of them: ratings, statistical polls, pandering to the minority special interests with big checkbooks and worst of all: putting personal gain ahead of the well being of a Great Nation.
The very last panel as you leave the museum has an excerpt from a speech entitled, “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23, 1910 with this section referred to as the “The Man in the Arena.”
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.”
Each of us should be willing to do the same for the ideals we believe in and to get involved in the process so as to move the Nation forward for the greater good of all.
On this July 4th, 2012 let us remember that it was the signers of the Declaration of Independence who were more than willing to put their names to a document which would most certainly result in the harshest of penalties should they not have the resolve to put their personal differences aside and follow through on each being the “Man in the Arena” for our Great Nation, The United States of America.
Happy July 4th, 2012.