“…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…” — Teddy Roosevelt from his speech, Citizenship in a Republic
This has to stop.
I’ve let my “man in the arena” quote be twisted for over a hundred years and said nothing. Not when it became a Cadillac commercial, or the name of a Tom Brady documentary, or even a reference in Nixon’s resignation speech.
But you have pushed me too far. I did not make that speech at the Sorbonne so that a mid-tier YouTuber could address his history of bigoted comments with, “Sometimes when you’re the guy in the arena, shit happens, ya feel?”
Well, I don’t feel, Spencer. I don’t.
I had a lot of ideas. Big ideas. About nature and morality and democracy and monopoly. Maybe you agree with them, maybe you don’t, but I’ll be damned if my legacy is going to boil down to shitty men’s go-to “sorry-not-sorry” quote.
Look, your boy Theo has done a lot of thinking since dying in 1919. I realize 40 to 100 percent of my whole deal has aged poorly. I’ve been reading A People’s History of the United States, and, well, yikes.
But there’s no denying I did stuff. I became President at age forty-two; I created the National Parks System; I won a Nobel Peace Prize; I gave a ninety-minute speech with a bullet in my chest. When I spoke of the man “whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,” I was not picturing a twenty-three-year-old Elon Musk fanboy who won’t learn someone’s pronouns.
Also, not that you’ve read it, but the speech is called “Citizenship in a Republic.” The arena thing is kind of an intro. It’s nearly nine thousand words about democracy, privilege, character, social progress, and collectivism. But all you got from it was the smarter-sounding version of “haters gonna hate.”
I swear, if I find out that speech is in an Ethereum commercial, I will get on God’s calendar to pitch another flood.
It’s not like I’m hypersensitive. I mean, you don’t see me freaking out about my “eyes on the stars … feet on the ground” quote. I’m a reasonable person. Plus, I can’t police every pharmacy selling Happy Graduation cards.
Also, why are you even invoking me as your hero? I hope it’s because I was an early environmentalist and articulated some admirable civic ideals, even if I didn’t really live up to them. But I suspect you just like my mustache and the fact that I shot a lot of lions.
If I discredit myself, will that get you to stop?
Did you know I was really racist? And not like “cringey uncle at Thanksgiving” racist, more like “genocidal towards Indigenous Americans” racist.
Did you know I used troops on Latin American workers so US companies could sell more bananas?
That I inherited millions from my rich daddy in New York but spent my life dressing as a cowboy?
That I named my son “Kermit”?
I mean, what’s it going to take? … Oh no, is that a DeSantis campaign ad? Sit tight, Spencer, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.