Rio da Dúvida – The River of Doubt

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The River

“The mightiest river in the world is the Amazon.  It runs from west to east, from the sunset to the sunrise, from the Andes to the Atlantic. The main stream flows almost along the equator, while the basin which contains the affluents extends many degrees north and south of the equator.”

Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness

The New Year is a beginning.  And when there is a beginning, there seems to be an undercurrent of promised adventures.  Humanity has always been fascinated by the unknown, the thrill of discovery, and the prospect for advancement.  What is less understood is the concept of risk.  Where there is the opportunity for reward, there is always a likelihood of some form of peril.

This River flowed northward toward the equator, but whither it would go, whether it would turn one way or another, the length of its course, where it would come out, the character of the stream itself, and the character of the dwellers along its banks – all these things were yet to be discovered.”

Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness

Theodore “T.R.” Roosevelt, Jr. was a man of action and adventure.  His high-spirited personality and robust appearance belied his sickly childhood clouded by the presence of asthma. Courage and determination pushed him forward, despite losing his first wife and mother on the same day, February 14, 1884.   At 42, he became the youngest President of the United States and the first of three sitting presidents to win the Nobel Peace Prize.   His terms in office were eventful:  The acquisition of the Panama Canal Rights (1904); the Russo-Japanese War (1904 – 1905), the San Francisco earthquake (1906) and the Panic of 1907 where the New York Stock Exchange fell almost 50% from its peak the previous year.  Yet Theodore Roosevelt’s most dramatic adventure was 1913 – 1914 when he teamed up with Cândido Rondon, Brazil’s most famous explorer to follow the River of Doubt, an uncharted tributary of the Amazon, one of the most dangerous and treacherous rivers in the world.  Confident at the outset, the hardships, losses and sickness challenged their resolve. Surviving became a daily goal.

The expedition changed the map of the western hemisphere and the name of the river: Roosevelt River.   In his letter of May 1, 1914 to His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rio de Janeiro, Theodore Roosevelt wrote “My dear Sir, I thank you from my heart for the chance to take part in this great work of exploration.”

Once an adventure starts, there is no telling where it will lead.  As we head into a New Year, may we be open to new ideas and possibilities, to seek the greater good, and to strive with great enthusiasm.

The Man in the Arena

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The Olympics

A dialogue on courage would be incomplete without Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.”  On April 23, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech entitled, “Citizenship in a Republic,” at the Sorbonne, Paris. Thirty-five pages long, the unforgettable passage is found on the seventh page.

Many years later, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of this speech to François Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (As a point of interest, in the film based on those events, the poem Invictus is used instead.)

“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.”

Teddy Roosevelt

26Th President of the United States

Good & Great

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A good day is being with people who enjoy intellectual conversation.  A great day is being with people who care for each other.

 

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Theodore Roosevelt