Monday, June 19, 2006
In the arena
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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt, "Citizenship in a Republic", Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
Since Haughey died last week people have been reaching around for the right comparison: CJH himself, being rather a Francophile, would have liked Napoleon to be mentioned. (Certainly he was suitably diminutive). He would certainly have settled for de Gaulle. Mitterand is probably more realistic, though I'm afraid Chirac might be even more so.
Away from France, Mussolini has been mentioned by hostile observers. (PJ Mara, Haughey's celebrated press secretary did once mischievously declare "una voce, una duce" after one of the heaves against Haughey had been seen off).
But I presume that when Bertie, or whoever wrote his graveside oration, decided to use the above quote, he didn't realise that it was also a favourite of someone else to whom Haughey has been compared. In fact good old Tricky Dicky Nixon went so far as to name an autobiography of sorts after it.
I guess it's just a great exculpatory quote for disgraced politicians.
(Actually I think it's harsh to think of Haughey in the same terms as Nixon, since Nixon's worst crimes related to things like Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile etc., not petty crookedness).