Be the Man in the Arena

Theodore Roosevelt is the hero of many men including me. Whether it was his love of the outdoors, the heroic efforts at San Juan Hill, his high intellectual acumen or his strenuous life, TR’s popularity is soaring today like the Saturn Five Rocket at full power. I write today because he was a man worth emulating, and not because of his popularity in our day. In my own quest for authenticity, I nearly didn’t post this blog simply because of the recent fascination with Roosevelt.

So why write? I write because of the difference he has had on my life. Understandingly, he was just a man, although his legend grows to mythic proportions. He was just a man, complete in his own failures, struggles and shortcomings as a man, husband and father. All this being said, Roosevelt was a tremendous man for multiple reasons.

He was a magnetic sort of man that understood the value of being a man, loving a woman, sacrifice, joy, God, the Wild, reading, playing with kids, serving his country, leadership, friendships, enemies, heroism, warrior ethos, courage, physical fitness, rowdy manly fun, foreign relations, just to name a few. It is for these reasons, and more, that men today must study Roosevelt and become that caliber of man. His iron like exterior and velvet like interior are an uncommon, masculine dichotomy.

An interesting thing to note, Roosevelt had severe physical limitations through debilitating, asthmatic attacks, so severe in fact that his own father said, “You have the mind but not the body… You must make your body.” This was the beginning of Roosevelt’s transformation. His drive coupled with a newly converted gymnasium, weight lifting and boxing (that he loved). Roosevelt was a vocal practitioner of Muscular Christianity. Thomas Hughes sought to sharpen men by saying things like, “[It] is “a good thing to have strong and well exercised bodies …. The least of the muscular Christians has hold of the old chivalrous and Christian belief, that a man’s body is given him to be trained and brought into subjection, and then used for the protection of the weak, the advancement of all righteous causes, and the subduing of the earth which God has given to the children of men.”

His father’s example of tenderness and generosity also shaped his understanding of what it meant to be a man. One wave of dispelled wisdom from Thee, TR’s father, sent a message throughout the bandwidth of young Theodore’s life, “Weakness is the greatest of crimes.” This can be argued as a strength or just a perceived strength, but what cannot be debated is that TR took this message to heart. The old “Bull Moose” even wrote a book about it.

His book, The Strenuous Life, was his prescription for moral, physical and civic standards. For this Mount Rushmore of a man, it took more than brawn to be virtuous. He read ferociously, and he stemmed from good spiritual stock. Roosevelt’s mother was a Presbyterian and his father was a Dutch Reformed, so their Calvinistic foundations are what formed his spiritual life. The spiritual life is twisted together into every other aspect of life so a man can withstand the tension loads of intolerance, sinful practices and his own shadow. Often overlooked by his other accolades, TR studied the bible daily, attended chapel services at Harvard, and taught Sunday school classes in Cambridge. Roosevelt didn’t just live life; he attacked life. TR knew that for a man to become truly virtuous he had to BE ABOUT THE BOOK and BE A MAN OF ACTION.

Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.

Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt was a man that lived this conviction. After all, if something is worth doing it is worth doing wholeheartedly. This is the big takeaway from Roosevelt’s legacy. Perhaps the Strenuous Man can encourage us to take on the strenuous life physically, spiritually, relationally and intellectually. .

We will conclude with an excerpt of one of the most powerful speeches in human history, Roosevelt’s, Citizenship in a Republic Speech, address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.

“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.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Chad N. Zueck, Founder of A New Kind of Man


  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
  • Bully: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt, Marschall
  • Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, Dalton
  • Tom Brown’s School Days & Tom Brown at Oxford, Thomas Hughes

Be the Man

Give some manliness to your friends

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