Review: The Strenuous Life by Theodore Roosevelt

billy/ October 31, 2017/ Uncategorized


During spring 2016, I spent several weeks reading through a three-part biography of Teddy Roosevelt, and it led me want to dive into his writings even more. Among the books read was a series of essays and addresses called The Strenuous Life. The book was published before Roosevelt became President, and includes some biographical sketches of hardships he was able to overcome in his youth, and why hard work and effort are important to the development of individuals.

His opening remarks in the opening speech set the tone for the entire book.

“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere 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.”

Roosevelt’s speeches during this period, and seemingly throughout the rest of his life, centered on the importance of hard work and effort. He reminds us that our best self is not forged in the success of the endeavor, but in the hard work put in to achieve a goal, whether or not the goal is realized. In word and in deed, he exhorts us as a later generation to develop the virtues that lead to good citizenship, good neighborliness, and good character, and then to live them out. In fact, Roosevelt said, “the chief factor in any man’s success or failure must be his own character.”

As the United States approaches nearly a quarter millennium existence as a republic, I find myself stirred, spurred, and encouraged by Roosevelt’s speeches. His words remind me of my own need to put in effort daily in activities that will make me more fit emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you enjoy reading the words of leaders of America’s past, I highly recommend the thoughtful reading of this brief book of TR’s speeches.