Theodore Roosevelt was an endlessly motivated public servant. The wide range of roles and titles he held throughout his life is a testament to his unflagging commitment to service. Never one to sit on the sidelines, T.R. was well and truly the man in the Arena.
The Duties of Citizenship
By the age of 23, Roosevelt was already serving in the New York State Assembly. In 1883, the young assemblyman delivered a speech on his expectations of the American citizenry: to be engaged, vigilant, politically active, and above all, decent. "No man can be a good citizen who is not a good husband and a good father, who is not honest in his dealings with other men and women, faithful to his friends and fearless in the presence of his foes," Roosevelt famously proclaimed in this early speech.
Appointed to the Civil Service Commission by President Benjamin Harrison after returning to the east, Roosevelt took to his new position with the utmost enthusiasm. He fought against the systems of patronage and nepotism that dominated government appointments at the time, advocating strenuously for the selection of federal employees based on merit.
The Rough Rider
Theodore Roosevelt was an eager volunteer in the Spanish-American War. His famous cavalry unit, the Rough Riders, fought with distinction in Cuba and earned Roosevelt the title of Colonel. He returned home to the United States a hero.
Upon his return from the war, Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York. Within just a few years, he'd be the chief executive of the United States. A year after his second term ended, T.R. gave his most enduring speech: Citizenship in the Republic. He famously declared that credit belongs to "the man in the Arena," who "tries valiantly," and "spends himself in a worthy cause."
It is not the critic who counts...the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...