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The Man in the Arena is the title of a speech given by the US president Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910. It was subsequently re-printed in his book Citizenship in a Republic.

The speech is notable for the passage:

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.

This passage was quoted by another US president, Richard Nixon, during his resignation speech on August 8, 1974:

Sometimes I have succeeded and sometimes I have failed, but always I have taken heart from what Theodore Roosevelt once said about the man in the arena, 'whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, [...]

Nelson Mandela also gave a copy of this speech to Fran├žois Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup[1], in which the the South African side eventually defeated the heavily favoured All Blacks. In the film based on those events, the poem Invictus is used instead.

Someone who is heavily involved in a situation that requires courage, skill, or tenacity (as opposed to someone sitting on the sidelines and watching), is sometimes referred to as "the man in the arena."

The title - as the reference to "dust and sweat and blood" - echoes the Spanish bullfighting and Roman gladiator combat.

See also

External links


  1. ^ "British leaders: they're not what they were," By Dominic Sandbrook, 30 January 2010, The Daily Telegraph (UK),


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