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RooseveltNotes - Theodore Roosevelt The Strenuous Life...

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Theodore Roosevelt, “The Strenuous Life” Roosevelt’s ideal citizen is one who constantly struggles to achieve as much as can be achieved, and is self-reliant to the fullest extent possible, as he argues, “I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph,” (1). For Roosevelt, ‘easy’ lifestyles aren’t just undesirable; they are contemptible. He believes that the active engagement America must make in domestic growth and international relations must be founded in and modeled on a similar engagement by all, as he asserts, “A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. I ask only that what every self-respecting American demands from himself and from his sons shall be demanded of the American nation as a whole,” (1). Even leisure time ought be used for the enrichment of self through the practice of learning activities and so forth. Roosevelt holds that, “We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth's surface,” (1). Roosevelt’s views are grounded in tradition in more than one way. Note, for example, his demand that, “In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk. The man must be glad to do a man's work, to dare and endure and to labor; to keep himself, and to keep those dependent upon him. The woman must be the
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This note was uploaded on 02/25/2012 for the course 790 376 taught by Professor Murphy during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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RooseveltNotes - Theodore Roosevelt The Strenuous Life...

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