I present to you (the officially nostalgically titled) Bobby’s World, monthly musings from the one and only Hubby!
I love a good speech. Always have.
I can remember as a young boy (probably too young at the time), my brother and I watching Braveheart, pounding our chests and jumping up and down while reciting word-for-word the William Wallace “Freedom!” speech. If I’m being honest… I still do this.
Whether it’s fictional like Coach Taylor’s multitude of locker room pep talks on Friday Night Lights or Youtube playlists of presidential speeches, I am a sucker for being inspired by the spoken word that is wrapped with emotion and backed by passion. In a moment of complete vulnerability, I occasionally workout to hour-long montages of inspirational speeches from movies, motivational speakers and an Arnold Schwarzenegger commencement speech, all backed by absolutely terrible, yet wonderful, dramatic trailer music. I am unashamed.
However, with regard to speeches, I do have a personal all-time favorite. Today it is commonly known as “The Man in the Arena.”
Orated by President Theodore Roosevelt to an audience in France, this speech was officially titled as “Citizenship in a Republic.” In its entirety, Roosevelt’s speech is quite lengthy, though I do encourage reading it in its original form if you have an obscene amount of time to kill. However, the section of the speech that is most widely recognized today is only about a paragraph in length and deals with the fictitious character known as “the man in the arena.” If you don’t know the excerpt, you should definitely read it here first before continuing.
When I read that excerpt, I imagine TR leaning over the podium in France with his towering, bulky frame about to knock it over. He’s bellowing out each line and syllable with purpose and strength over a tired people and a stagnant nation. I can see the fire in his eyes and feel the courage seizing my heart. Here is a man who was once a sickly, asthmatic child who was near-sighted and far from his father’s pride and joy. A man who essentially remade himself, who literally beat his ailments out of his system with calisthenics and old-school lifting techniques. Here was a man who charged up San Juan Hill, who roughed it out West, and who stumbled into becoming one of the strongest presidents that the United States has ever boasted.
And here was that man’s advice; that credit belongs to those who live their lives passionately and take active risks regardless of success or failure, as compared to those who sit idly on the side and criticize the shortcomings of others.
But seriously, I’m fired up over here just thinking about what Teddy Roosevelt just said. It’s like he grabs you by the collar of your shirt, pulls you in real close and says, “Go. Be brave. Do something. Stop sitting around out of fear– of what other think of you, of what others say, of what might happen if you fail. Their voices don’t matter. What are you waiting for? Seize the day!”
Is there a more timely word for our world today? Doesn’t our culture love to point out “how strong men stumble” and “where the doer of deeds could have done them better?” Twitter and Facebook bristle with vehement opposition to anyone that shares their opinion and shames them into silence. News outlets feed off of the fear and anger of audiences fixated on waiting and watching for their political opponents to fall on their faces. Comedians jest and quip from afar and earn for themselves cheap laughter at the expense of others, all the while holding their hands up in defense, claiming sanctuary under the banners of sarcasm and humor.
If you are not convinced, just go watch any video on Youtube and then read the comments.
Worse yet, we have collectively found something “cool” about not being passionate. We have lifted up the attitude of ice-cool apathy to everything we happen to come into contact with. No band, movie or tv show can be enjoyed without first pointing at its imperfections. No diner or coffee shop can be praised without first pausing to make clear that the service was slow, the prices too high or the color of the walls just too 2014, (I still have no idea what that even means). “It was alright” is our automated response to whatever our latest experience just was, as if to protect ourselves from the very criticism that we are about to perpetuate.
When did this happen? When did we allow ourselves to be ruled by a prevailing paradigm of passionless apathy and “nothing is cool” attitude?
I cannot speak for you, but I know that this is not the life I want to live. This is not the rut of thinking that I want to enter. Life should be seized. It should be lived to the fullest everyday. It should be full of heart and passion. It should belong to the living and not the dead, the dying or the luke-warm.
I say to let the critic come. Let them come with their notepad and pen, ready to take notes at where we fail and fall short. Let the naysayer shake their head at the lives of action that we choose for ourselves and the mistakes that we make. Let the self-appointed experts, the pundits, the commentators — let them all come and sit outside our arenas and cheer as we fall, as we stumble, as we struggle to get back on our feet. Let all the world come against us and heap insults and criticisms upon our faults, our bad breaks and misfortunes, because at the end of the day we hold this one truth; it is our arena.
In the end, no can take from you the fact that you had the courage to climb between the ropes and throw yourself into the ring. You had the drive to start a business when no one else would. You mustered up the courage to have a conversation when others sat in silence. You leaped with faith to a new city when others watched from afar. You stepped forward when others shrunk back. You nailed your colors to the mast when others retreated.
This is what I want. To live by the mantra of the Dillon Panthers “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.” To echo the words of Robert the Bruce, “I don’t want to lose heart. I want to believe.” To tread ground with Walt Whitman’s pioneers. To carpe diem as was urged by Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society. To “spend my life in a worthy cause” as Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed.
What will they say of us when our final chapters finish and our stories come to a close? Will those gathered around for the occassion use words like “timid” or “safe” or “coward.” Or will they tell stories about us with words like “brave” and “passionate” and “conviction.”
As for me, I choose the latter, so that I may never be with “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Let the critic come.