Following his African safari, Theodore Roosevelt took a grand tour of Europe, giving lectures at major universities and meeting with the monarchs of various countries. It was a time of great speech-making for Roosevelt who gave some of his best-known addresses during this “statesman’s tour” of Europe. One such talk, “Citizenship in a Republic” was given at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910. It contains one of Roosevelt’s best-remembered quotes:
“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 no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the 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 know neither victory nor defeat.”
It is interesting to note that the French were delighted by the speech…but not because of its discussion of citizenship and where responsible citizenship falls. They were most pleased to be publicly scolded by Theodore Roosevelt for the nation’s declining birthrate. Roosevelt shone the spotlight exactly where the French wanted it. Coming from such an outspoken advocate of large families, the French government—whose members worried about the falling birthrate—was pleased. Fifty thousand copies of Roosevelt’s speech were promptly sent out to French school teachers so they could remind their students of their duty, upon reaching adulthood, to procreate, because “the chief of blessings for any nation is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land.”
Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 2002), 359.