November 9, 2012

Man in the Arena

The summer before freshman year is for introspection, decisions about where the path through high school leads. Wherever that is must be right for each student. It may be technical schools, community college, a job. Or the USNA. If a teen doesn’t take the time to think through their options, they may end up Somewhere by default–because they didn’t prepare for what they really wanted, because it was easier, because…

For those who think USNA is their goal, that choice involves a lot of work. I remember one example a teacher used in college for me (twenty years ago). He asked us-all in class, How many would like to be millionaires. Predictably, most raised their hands. Next question, How many will work hard enough in college to get a 4.0, to go to grad school? A few hands went down, but most students still thought they’d give up parties, dates, for a study fest. Next question, How many… You probably get the idea. Each question involved those myriad of choices we make in life to place success and goals over what’s easy and available. Few hands remained at the end.

A long story and I’m not very erudite. Theodore Roosevelt said it better in his Man in the Arena speech at the Sorbonne, Paris France, April 23, 1910:

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.


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Jacqui Murray wrote Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger,IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office, WordDreams, or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.