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L'Abri Journals...ACGray

March 2005
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Chalet L’Abri, March, 2005….Measuring My Days….acg

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.”  Theodore Roosevelt, in a famous speech, “Man in the Arena  at the Sorbonne ,Paris, France,  April 23, 1910.

 

          I encountered this quote recently when I read John Feinstein’s excellent book, The Bruce Edwards Story.  It is the life story of Tom Watson’s caddy who died with Lou Gehrigs (ALS) disease.  The book itself is as much about Tom Watson and his work ethic -- how he practiced his craft with great zeal and devotion – as it is about his caddy.  Feinstein tells how Tom Watson used this quote from Roosevelt’s famous speech in his victory comments when America’s top golfers won the Ryder Cup in 1993.  Perhaps some wise professor had acquainted Watson with the speech.  I found myself so intrigued with the quote that I researched and read the entire speech.    Watson has always been one of my heroes.  I identified with him when I first saw his beguiling gap-toothed grin on television, this when I so often felt self-conscious because of my own gap teeth, (a matter that sometimes sent me crying to bed when I was a kid!)  Watson’s single minded playing of the game under immense pressure was a great inspiration to all who watched.

In the speech, a graduation address, Roosevelt strongly emphasizes the value of a strong work ethic as the bedrock of success.  He emphasized that it was morally essential for young people as citizens of a democratic republic to go forth after their formal education ends and devote their energy to worthwhile work.  In the long run,” he said, “ success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average woman, does his or her duty….The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher…. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder…. money-maker or politician, soldier or orator, journalist or popular leader.”   Watson took this admonition to work hard more seriously than most, thus becoming one of golf’s all time great champions.  Roosevelt’s speech should be required reading both in high school and college.

            Now spring draws near once more at the Massanutten.   My crocuses are in bloom and my daffodils have speared out of the good earth as days gradually grow warmer.  Finches, nuthatches, wrens, cardinals, doves, and woodpeckers are frequent visitors at my feeders, flashes of color and delight as the long winter comes to an end.  Ah, sparrows too!  And the Holy Book reminds me that I, like the sparrows, am seen and watched over and cared for and loved as they -- all creatures great and small.

                                                                                                         

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“Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.  Where is the house that you will build for Me?  And where is the place of My rest?  For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist.”  Says the Lord.  But on this one will I look:  On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word….”  Isaiah 66::1-2   Lord, give me to know the full meaning of Isaiah’s words….acg