“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failures, than to 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.”
These words were said by the 26th President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt. He, however, addressed those words to the Hamilton Club in Chicago, Illinois on April 10, 1899. This was before he was elected as Vice President in November 1900 and certainly well before his inauguration as President following the assassination of William McKinley in September 2001.
Moving beyond where we were
Roosevelt’s words were part of an address known as The Strenuous Life. In his speech, he put forth a bold vision for the United States. Roosevelt advocated that this country should not sit back and simply enjoy our abundant natural resources. He advocated that we should not remain huddled within our own borders neither caring nor influencing what happens beyond.
Rather Roosevelt advocated that this country should involve itself in world affairs and that we as a nation should commit to hard work and using our abundant natural resources to make America a world leader. Roosevelt was intent on being true to his words: “Dare Mighty Things.”
A path of achievement
From the perspective of today and all America has achieved, Roosevelt’s position appears to have been a logical one. After all, in the 20th century the United States was instrumental in the victorious ending of two world wars, pulling the world out of a great depression, landing men on the moon, and the conquering of diseases that had plagued humans since the beginning of time. And these are just the highlights.
At that time of Roosevelt’s address, however, the perspective was very different. The United States was still a young nation. The Civil War was more a memory than history, with most adult American either bearing witness to the war itself or being part of the rebuilding. In less than forty years, the United States had witnessed the assassination of three Presidents – Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. The country was mired in debt and indecision.
A turning point for our future
From the perspective of that time, it was not at all clear as to whether or not America could be (let alone should be) a world leader – economically or militarily. As such, Roosevelt’s bold vision for the United States had its share of detractors and critics. Despite vast pockets of opposition, Roosevelt never deviated from his vision and never shrank from his “Dare Mighty Things” attitude and glorious triumphs followed.
During his seven-and-one-half year tenure in the White House, Roosevelt took the view that the President as a “steward of the people” should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution. With that, Roosevelt reduced the National debt by over $90,000,000. In addition, he forced the dissolution of a great railroad combination in the Northwest and secured the passage of the regulations for consumer protection and fair wages.
Achieve, achieve, achieve
Roosevelt provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres, a land area equivalent to that of all the East coast states from Maine to Florida. In doing this, he designated 150 National Forests, the first 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 5 National Parks, the first 18 National Monuments, the first 4 National Game Preserves, and the first 21 Reclamation Projects.
President Roosevelt saw to it that America became a major military power. He built up the United States Navy as what he termed the “Big Stick” initiative.
And, despite the prior failures of the French, Roosevelt lead the charge to have the United States undertake the construction of a canal across the rainforest and vast mountain ranges of Panama – cutting thousands of miles off of the shipping routes by connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean at a narrow stretch of Central America.
The mighty lesson for us all
What lesson can we glean from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Darn Mighty Things” attitude? Simple. All great things start with a vision.
• When the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they had a vision;
• When Susan B. Anthony canvassed across the country advocating a woman’s right to vote, she had a vision; and,
• As Martin Luther King Jr. embarked on the Civil Rights movement, he had a vision.
For you, if you want a GREAT business, it will start with a vision. And, if we want a GREAT brand, it will start with a vision. If we want a GREAT anything (relationship, marriage, children), it starts with a vision.
Be damned the naysayers. To heck with those that do not believe in you. And work through those that oppose what you intend to do. You need to have a vision for who you are to be and what you are to do. Dare Mighty Things.
Frank Agin is the founder and president of AmSpirit Business Connections. In addition, Frank is the author of Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like and Trust To Create A Lifetime of Extraordinary Success and the co-author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success on the World’s Largest Professional Networking Website and The Champion: Finding the Most Valuable Person in Your Network.