"The Doctrine Of The Strenuous Life"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Theodore Roosevelt's "strenuous life" speech of April 10, 1899, has as its main purpose to urge the United States to take an aggressive role in governing the Philippine Islands, only recently freed from Spanish control. Before turning his remarks to the responsibilities of a nation, however, Roosevelt speaks of the duties of the individual, commenting that even the man of leisure has a responsibility to himself and his fellow man to use that leisure to make a worth-while contribution to society. A life of "ignoble ease," Roosevelt says, is not worthy of the individual. He scorns the "man of timid peace" and the man who does not want to put forth effort. His speech opens with the following lines:

In speaking to you, men of the greatest city of the West, men of the State which gave to the country Lincoln and Grant, men who pre-eminently and distinctly embody all that is most American in the American character, 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.