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Theodore Roosevelt,

THE STRENUOUS LIFE

A speech delivered to Chicago's Hamilton Club on 10 April 1899.

Teddy Roosevelt fought in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and became a leading advocate of American

imperialism. He delivered this speech a couple of months after the Senate had ratified the treaty with Spain

that established the Philippines as a colony of the United States. "The Strenuous Life" exuberantly defended

American imperialism using arguments rooted not only in American economic self-interest but also in notions

of masculine vigor, racial fitness, and national destiny. --D. Voelker

1

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 preeminently 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 effort, of

labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires more 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. 2

A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive

after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. I ask only that what every self-respecting

American demands from himself and from his sons shall be demanded of the American nation as a whole.

Who among you would teach your boys that ease, that [2] peace, is to be the first consideration in their eyes-

-to be the ultimate goal after which they strive? You men of Chicago have made this city great, you men of

Illinois have done your share, and more than your share, in making America great, because you neither

preach nor practise such a doctrine. You work yourselves, and you bring up your sons to work. If you are rich

and are worth your salt, you will teach your sons that though they may have leisure, it is not to be spent in

idleness; for wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of

working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non-remunerative [sic] work in

science, in letters, in art, in exploration, in historical research--work of the type we most need in this country,

the successful carrying out of which reflects most honor upon the nation.

3

We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who

never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win

in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we

get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up

effort [3] in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers

before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still

does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics

or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this

period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even

though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth's surface, and

he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of

ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who

follow it for serious work in the world. 4

In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean,

vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but

to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk. The man must be

glad to do a man's work, to dare and endure and to labor; to [4] keep himself, and to keep those dependent

upon him. The woman must be the housewife, the helpmeet of the homemaker, the wise and fearless

mother of many healthy children. In one of Daudet's powerful and melancholy books he speaks of "the fear

of maternity, the haunting terror of the young wife of the present day." When such words can be truthfully

written of a nation, that nation is rotten to the heart's core. When men fear work or fear righteous war, when

women fear motherhood, they tremble on the brink of doom; and well it is that they should vanish from the

earth, where they are fit subjects for the scorn of all men and women who are themselves strong and brave

and high-minded. 5

As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has

no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win

glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither

enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. If in

1861 the men who loved the Union had believed that peace was the end of all things, and war and strife the

worst of all things, and had acted up to [5] their belief, we would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,

we would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, besides saving all the blood and treasure we

then lavished, we would have prevented the heartbreak of many women, the dissolution of many homes, and

we would have spared the country those months of gloom and shame when it seemed as if our armies

marched only to defeat. We could have avoided all this suffering simply by shrinking from strife. And if we

had thus avoided it, we would have shown that we were weaklings, and that we were unfit to stand among

the great nations of the earth. 6

Thank God for the iron in the blood of our fathers, the men who upheld the wisdom of Lincoln, and bore

sword or rifle in the armies of Grant! Let us, the children of the men who proved themselves equal to the

mighty days, let us, the children of the men who carried the great Civil War to a triumphant conclusion, praise

the God of our fathers that the ignoble counsels of peace were rejected; that the suffering and loss, the

blackness of sorrow and despair, were unflinchingly faced, and the years of strife endured; for in the end the

slave was freed, the Union restored, and the mighty American republic placed once more as a helmeted

queen among nations. [6] 7

We of this generation do not have to face a task such as that our fathers faced, but we have our tasks, and

woe to us if we fail to perform them! We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by

inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a

scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying

ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of

question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of

unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the

manly and adventurous qualities. If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a

great part in the world. We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is

whether we shall meet them well or ill. In 1898 we could not help being brought face to face with the problem

of war with Spain. All we could decide was whether we should shrink like cowards from the contest, or enter

into it as beseemed a brave and high-spirited people; and, once in, whether failure or success should crown

our banners. 8

So it is now. We cannot avoid the responsibilities [7] that confront us in Hawaii, Cuba, Porto Rico, and the

Philippines. All we can decide is whether we shall meet them in a way that will redound to the national credit,

or whether we shall make of our dealings with these new problems a dark and shameful page in our history.

To refuse to deal with them at all merely amounts to dealing with them badly. We have a given problem to

solve. If we undertake the solution, there is, of course, always danger that we may not solve it aright; but to

refuse to undertake the solution simply renders it certain that we cannot possibly solve it aright.

9

The timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized man, who has lost the

great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mind, whose soul is incapable of

feeling the mighty lift that thrills "stern men with empires in their brains"--all these, of course, shrink from

seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing us build a navy and an army adequate to our

needs; shrink from seeing us do our share of the world's work, by bringing order out of chaos in the great,

fair tropic islands from which the valor of our soldiers and sailors has driven the Spanish flag. These are the

men who fear the strenuous life, who fear the only national life which is really worth leading. [8] They believe

in that cloistered life which saps the hardy virtues in a nation, as it saps them in the individual; or else they

are wedded to that base spirit of gain and greed which recognizes in commercialism the be-all and end-all of

national life, instead of realizing that, though an indispensable element, it is, after all, but one of the many

elements that go to make up true national greatness. No country can long endure if its foundations are not

laid deep in the material prosperity which comes from thrift, from business energy and enterprise, from hard,

unsparing effort in the fields of industrial activity; but neither was any nation ever yet truly great if it relied

upon material prosperity alone. All honor must be paid to the architects of our material prosperity, to the

great captains of industry who have built our factories and our railroads, to the strong men who toil for wealth

with brain or hand; for great is the debt of the nation to these and their kind. But our debt is yet greater to the

men whose highest type is to be found in a statesman like Lincoln, a soldier like Grant. They showed by their

lives that they recognized the law of work, the law of strife; they toiled to win a competence for themselves

and those dependent upon them; but they recognized that there were yet other and even loftier duties--

duties to the nation and duties to the race. [9]


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DESCRIZIONE DISPENSA

Dispensa al corso di "Gli Stati Uniti nel XX secolo" del Prof. Daniele Fiorentino. Trattasi del discorso del futuro presidente degli Stati Uniti Theodore Roosevelt all'Hamilton Club di Chicago nell'aprile del 1899 con il quale giustificò l'occupazione delle Filippine e la politica imperialista americana in nome dell'interesse economico, dell'esercizio fisico maschile, della salute della razza e del destino manifesto.


DETTAGLI
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
SSD:
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Gli Stati Uniti nel XX secolo e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Fiorentino Daniele.

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