Theodore Roosevelt on the Law of Strife
“The law of worthy national life, like the law of worthy individual life, is, after all, fundamentally, the law of strife. It may be strife military, it may be strife civic; but certain it is that only through strife, through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and by resolute courage, we move on to better things.”
We should not lightly court danger and difficulty, but neither should we shirk from facing them, when in some way or other they must be met. We are a great nation and we are compelled, whether we will or not, to face the responsibilities that must be faced by all great nations. It is not in our power to avoid meeting them. All that we can decide is whether we shall meet them well or ill.
There are social reformers who tell us that in the far distant future the necessity for fighting will be done away with, just as there are social reformers who tell us that in that long distant time the necessity for work or, at least, for painful, laborious work, will be done away with.
But at present the nation, like the individual, which is going to do anything in the world must face the fact that in order to do it, it must work and may have to fight. And it is only thus that great deeds can be done, and the highest and purest form of happiness acquired. Remember that peace itself, that peace after which all men crave, is merely the realization in the present of what has been bought by strenuous effort in the past.
Peace represents stored-up effort of our fathers or of ourselves in the past. It is not a means – it is an end. You do not get peace by peace; you get peace as the result of effort. If you strive to get it by peace you will lose it, that is all.
If we ever grow to regard peace as a permanent condition; if we ever grow to feel that we can afford to let the keen, fearless, virile qualities of heart and mind and body be lost, then we will prepare the way for inevitable and shameful disaster in the future.
Peace is of true value only if we use it in part to make ready to face with untroubled heart, with fearless front, whatever the future may have in store for us. The peace which breeds timidity and sloth is a curse and not a blessing.
The law of worthy national life, like the law of worthy individual life, is, after all, fundamentally, the law of strife. It may be strife military, it may be strife civic; but certain it is that only through strife, through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and by resolute courage, we move on to better things.
– Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
This image in this post was created in 1900 and digitally restored by KNOWOL in 2017. Reproductions are available here.