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Daring Greatly by Theodore Roosevelt


President Theodore Roosevelt, Photograph by Pach Brothers Studio, New York, c. August 15, 1913

President Theodore Roosevelt, Photograph by Pach Brothers Studio, New York, c. August 15, 1913 (Library of Congress image link)

I have spent the few free moments I have had this week, totally engrossed in Ken Burns’ latest film The Roosevelts, An Intimate History currently being broadcast on public television. The film presents, in seven parts, the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. An amazing and moving film.

In the final minutes of episode two, we are presented with what is perhaps one of the most memorable things Theodore Roosevelt’s may have ever penned. He writes:

“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 and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, 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 he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” —Theodore Roosevelt, from an excerpt of his speech “Citizenship in a Republic” April 23, 1910

Theodore Roosevelt's signature

With a nod to President Roosevelt, I say . . . “Bully!*”

*The word bully itself was an adjective in the vernacular of the time meaning “first- rate,” somewhat equivalent to the recent use of the word “awesome. 

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CRAIG VARJABEDIAN is an award-winning photographer who explores the back roads of the American West, making pictures of the unique and quintessential. He shares awe-inspiring stories of the land and the people who live on it . . . one photograph at a time.