My favorite quote comes from Teddy Roosevelt, and it is often referred to as The Man in the Arena. He makes the point that the man to be admired is the one who is giving his life to a great cause, and not the spectators, announcers, bench-warmers, or (especially) the critics.
I was recently reminded of this as I read about the ongoing debate over national security and the fight against terrorism. After 9/11, the Deputy Director of British Intelligence asked “How are we to deal with the not-yet-guilty?” There is a huge amount of tension between the protection of our nation and the protection of our civil liberties. We may not think about this in our daily lives, but those engaged in the fight are dealing with it every day.
Ultimately, the press and politicians (and everyone else) want to avoid the question. They want to “criticize intelligence agencies for not doing enough when they feel in danger while reserving the right to criticize those agencies for doing too much when they feel safe again.” (quote from the book) In reality, the issue is far more complex than a few soundbites on the nightly news.
The next time you find yourself critical of a person in the national spotlight (such as a presidential candidate), first make sure your “face is marred by dust and sweat and blood” from sacrificing for this worthy cause. And then, if the other person is likewise standing with you in the arena, consider swallowing your words of criticism and instead affirm their commitment to the shared cause.
Thanks for listening.