Point Of View
The Man in the Arena:
citizenship is not good citizenship if only exhibited in the
home. There remains the duties of the individual in relation
to the State, and these duties are none too easy under the conditions
which exist where the effort is made to carry on the free government
in a complex industrial civilization.
the most important thing the ordinary citizen, and, above all,
the leader of ordinary citizens, has to remember in political
life is that he must not be a sheer doctrinaire. The closest
philosopher, the refined and cultured individual who from his
library tells how men ought to be governed under ideal conditions,
is of no use in actual governmental work; and the one-sided
fanatic, and still more the mob-leader, and the insincere man
who to achieve power promises what by no possibility can be
performed, are not merely useless but noxious.
a strong individualist by personal habit, inheritance, and conviction;
but it is a mere matter of common sene to recognize that the
State, the community, the citizens acting together, can do a
number of things better than if they were left to individual
individualism which finds its expression in the abuse of physical
force is checked very early in the growth of civilization, and
we of to-day should in our turn strive to shackle or destroy
that individualism which triumphs by greed and cunning, which
exploits the weak by craft instead of ruling them by brutality.
to go with any man in the effort to bring about justice and
the equality of opportunity, to turn the tool-user more and
more into the tool-owner, to shift burdens so that they can
be more equitably borne.
deadening effect on any race of the adoption of a logical and
extreme socialistic system could not be overstated; it would
spell sheer destruction; it would produce grosser wrong and
outrage, fouler immortality, than any existing system.
this does not mean that we may not with great advantage adopt
certain of the principles professed by some given set of men
who happen to call themselves Socialists; to be afraid to do
so would be to make a mark of weakness on our part. Let us,
then, take into account the actual facts of life, and not be
misled into following any proposal for achieving the millennium,
for recreating the golden age, until we have subjected it to
other hand, it is foolish to reject a proposal merely because
it is advanced by visionaries. If a given scheme is proposed,
look at it on its merits, and, in considering it, disregard
formulas. It does not matter in the least who proposes it, or
why. If it seems good, try it. If it proves good, accept it;
otherwise reject it.
are plenty of good men calling themselves Socialists with whom,
up to a certain point, it is quite possible to work. If the
next step is one which both we and they wish to take, why of
course take it, without any regard to the fact that our views
as to the tenth step may differ.
on the other hand, keep clearly in mind that, though it has
been worth while to take one step, this does not in the least
mean that it may not be highly disadvantageous to take the next.
It is just as foolish to refuse all progress because people
demanding it desire at some points to go to absurd extremes,
as it would be to go to these absurd extremes simply because
some of the measures advocated by the extremists were wise.
republic, to be successful we must learn to combine intensity
of conviction with a broad tolerance of difference of conviction.
Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political,
and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike
are not be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.
internecine hatreds, based on such differences, are signs, not
of earnestness of belief, but of that fanaticism which, whether
religious or antireligious, democratic or antidemocratic, it
itself but a manifestation of the gloomy bigotry which has been
the chief factor in the downfall of so many, many nations. Of
one man in especial, beyond any one else, the citizens of a
republic should beware, and that is of the man who appeals to
them to support him on the ground that he is hostile to other
citizens of the republic, that he will secure for those who
elect him, in one shape or another, profit at the expense of
other citizens of the republic.
makes no difference whether he appeals to class hatred or class
interest, to religious or antireligious prejudice. The man who
makes such an appeal should always be presumed to make it for
the sake of furthering his own interest. The very last thing
an intelligent and self-respecting member of a democratic community
should do is to reward any public man because that public man
says that he will get the private citizen something to which
this private citizen is not entitled, or will gratify some emotion
or animosity which this private citizen ought not to possess.
delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910,
Theodore Roosevelt ((1858-1919).