Manvotional: The Man in The Arena by Theodore Roosevelt

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 28, 2009 · 28 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals


If you’ve been reading AoM for awhile, you’ll know that we’re big, big fans of Theodore Roosevelt. TR’s life shows us that hard work, tenacity, and a desire to do the right thing can get you far in life. In the most memorable section of his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, Roosevelt captured his life philosophy in just a few sentences. “The Man in the Arena” tells us that the man we should praise is the man who’s out there fighting the big battles, even if those battles end in defeat. In our day, when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered hip and cool, TR reminds us that glory and honor come to those “who spend themselves in a worthy cause.”

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.

Art of Manliness Homework: Print and memorize this quote. Recite often. It will put hair on your chest.

Hat tip to AoM reader Tyler for suggesting this Manvotional.

Got a speech, poem, or essay that you think would make a good Manvotional? Share it with us through the contact form.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jesse February 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I like this quote!

2 Chris March 1, 2009 at 4:23 am

One of the greatest speeches ever delivered. An absolute classic.

3 David at March 1, 2009 at 5:46 am

The last line concerning the timid souls who know neither victory or defeat really hit home for me. I’m starting up my own health and fitness business at the moment and it can be a little scary. However, I’d rather have this feeling than be one of those timid souls. Thanks for this.

- Dave

4 Tyler March 1, 2009 at 6:04 am

This quote always gets my blood up

5 Jsthegr8 March 1, 2009 at 10:46 am

WOW never read this quote before…Thanks!

6 babasach March 1, 2009 at 7:31 pm

This post reminds me of my all time favourite quotation (and the one that I always come back to when times get tough), also by Teddy Roosevelt:
“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

7 Uberhack March 2, 2009 at 10:36 am

I want this on my gravestone. It’s a bit long for a headstone but I want it none the less.

8 Kelly (Boxer) March 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I think that it is good for people to ask themselves if they “in the arena” or just a bystander expressing their “opinion”. I try to do things instead of just talking about them. In boxing, I wanted to be in the ring instead of just being a spectator. I would rather get my nose bloodied instead of saying what someone else could have done better. I think that it is a good gut check for those who want to call themselves men…have I stepped into the arena or I have I played it safe as a spectator?

9 OLDGUY April 29, 2009 at 7:49 am

Well that does it for me! I liked the AoM site before and posting TR’s speeches tells me why. His “Citizenship in a Republic” speech has been my favorite read for years. I cant think of a single paragraph that doesent align with my views.

10 The Truth May 6, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I attended a recent “tea party” event, just to hear the argument, an attendee, was waving a sign and stated” we should do what pres teddy would do, and throw out the congress by force” I asked how they came to this conclusion. They’re comment was what he did and what he said, I asked if they could give me an example, silence. I have noticed that those conservatives who put up Teddy as the type of president we should have don’t know beans about him. Truely he deserves to b on MT. Rushmore.

11 AK August 12, 2009 at 2:39 am


12 k2000k August 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I think Teddy would have concurred with that protectors statement, excluding the force part. No need for arms when we are fortunate enough to have the ballot.

13 k2000k August 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

excuse me, protesters, not protectors

14 Kevin Christy December 18, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I posted this quote as my Facebook update today and commented that this quote reflects my sentiments about Barack Obama. For all the criticism he receives, he is definitely in the arena getting bloodied up for causes he believes in. I totally respect him for that even if I don’t agree with everything he’s doing.

15 Andrew McCormick January 20, 2010 at 1:41 am

Just discovered this awesome website and what better introduction than finding this most excellent of quotes. Probably the perfect motto for any man to live by and certainly one of the most underrated speeches in U.S. history.

16 Caveman Sam February 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm

TR could talk the talk… like most politicians he was good at presenting a good image. However, he was an enormous twat. Do some actual research into him and his life rather than just consuming the propaganda that he and others put out about him and you’ll realize this. A good start would be “Imperial Cruise” by James Bradley.

17 Jared Nix March 20, 2010 at 2:01 am

Wonderful article in reference to a excellent man. I have been visiting this site for years but until now never felt the need to comment, I assumed the rest of you had it covered for me and there was truly nothing to say. After going through the “100 Must read books for Men” listed here on the AOM I read the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. This in turn led to countless other studies into the man and his life, as well as the lives he impacted. And in response to caveman sam, you have all the right in the world to feel negatively to TR, as any man, he is not perfect, but I truly feel that he strived for only the highest ideals and the truest versions of citizenship and purpose. Theodore Roosevelt led a life that many men would do well to emulate but applying his principles to our own. As for “The imperial cruse”, I suggest AOM readers to do proper research into this highly opinionated and exaggerated piece of literary fluff before allowing the unshakable image of this man to change.

18 Bill the Butcher. October 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

To hell with printing. Write it down.

19 Jeff December 7, 2012 at 8:47 am

Thermostat or thermometer – each of us is one or the other. Set the temperature or respond to the temperature set by others. It’s our daily decision. Decide to be the thermostat.

20 Dale January 20, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Tom Selleck used this quote in an episode of Blue Bloods. I love to “get in the arena” and get my face “marred by dust and blood.” Heaven forbid I ever become a “cold and timid soul.” That’s another name for a person who labels themself as a victim.

21 Brandon Crosby April 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

We have tried to live by these words for many years in our wrestling program. It is great and inspirational.

22 Adam Julians April 23, 2013 at 6:57 am

It’s a classic!

23 Nishanth May 7, 2013 at 2:28 am

This quote reminds me of Dante’s Divine Comedy, where Dante and Virgil meet souls who are fated to suffer for all eternity.
Their mistake?
The souls during their lifetime were neutral, they had no strong opinions and never took action. They kept aloof, and this according to Dante’s Inferno was a notable crime.
Roosevelt is pretty much saying the same thing.

24 Tyler May 16, 2013 at 10:27 pm

A very talented percussion group based their show off of this. Rhythm X – “The Man in the Arena”

25 Mike101 July 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Active courage is always available. It’s the path of most resistance. The Panama Canal was Teddy’s arena. He moved heaven and earth.

26 Donald November 30, 2013 at 3:47 am

I have been on three combat tours, along with a few Bible verses PS 91 and Teddy’s The Man in The Arena have served me very well “Bully”

27 Jay Johnston December 17, 2013 at 8:36 am

Don’t just print this, write it over and over. Commit it to memory. It’s been one of my favorite motivational quotes for many years.

28 Mac April 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

Say what you will about T.R. and his affect/methods/place in history – the truth of the matter is he was the motive power in his day that moved this country to what it has, in large part, become for better or worse.If it hadn’t been for the “steam-engine-in-trousers”, the capitol and industrial titans of their day would have run this country into the ground,which, they effectively accomplished given some of the social ills that even today plague us. I’d recommend the next time one feel’s compelled to “criticize” such a hugh proponent of good will to fellow man that it isn’t with a mouthful of food or one who has a particular disposition to enjoy any of our natural resources that he directly is responsible for preserving through what is now the Department of the Interior. Without his preservation agenda, the whole of this country would resemble Cleveland, Detroit or Brooklyn – a concrete and steel urban experience.He embodied a line of thinking and persona few embrace today given the current “gelding” driven culture and agendas of those trying to marginalizing the role of real men,as a means for their own ends.

” the best that you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is, – NOT to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him: or to say, to make him think things for himself”
Geo. MacDonald

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter