Posted by: Jacqui Murray | June 17, 2016

Be the Man in the Arena

lone soldier in arenaThe summer before high school freshman year is for introspection, decisions about where the path through high school leads. Wherever that is must be right for each student. It may be technical schools, community college, a job. Or the USNA. If a teen doesn’t take the time to think through their options, they may end up Somewhere by default–because they didn’t prepare for what they really wanted, because it was easier, because…

For those who think USNA is their goal, that choice involves a lot of work. I remember one example a teacher used in college for me (twenty years ago). He asked us-all in class, How many would like to be millionaires. Predictably, most raised their hands. Next question, How many will work hard enough in college to get a 4.0, to go to grad school? A few hands went down, but most students still thought they’d give up parties, dates, for a study fest. Next question, How many… You probably get the idea. Each question involved those myriad of choices we make in life to place success and goals over what’s easy and available. Few hands remained at the end.

A long story and I’m not very erudite. Theodore Roosevelt said it better in his Man in the Arena speech at the Sorbonne, Paris France, 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.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular  Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, author/editor of over 100 books/ebooks onintegrating technology in the classroom, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, an ISTE article reviewer, a monthly contributor to Today’s Author and mother of a Naval Officer and an Army warrior.



  1. Reblogged this on Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Where Past Meets Present at Middlemay Farm and commented:
    Jacqui Murray and Teddy Roosevelt talk about what it takes to achieve!

    • Thanks for the reblog, Adrienne. Me and Teddy Roosevelt in the same sentence–what an honor!

  2. I think your daughter was most unusual in knowing so young exactly what she wanted to do and was willing and determined to do what was necessary to accomplish her goals. Most teens don’t know themselves well enough to see their own paths, and many see themselves through their parents’ eyes.

    • True, and there are USNA Mids who go because their parents want them to. Usually doesn’t work because it’s way too hard.

  3. Wonderful speech! Love the last lines and particularly: ‘if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly’.

    • It’s taken education a long time over here, but we finally are beginning to respect failure as a learning tool. I love this speech.

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