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Man in the Arena


Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech, delivered over a century ago and just five years after Rotary was founded, continues to inspire with its powerful message of courage, perseverance, and resilience in the face of challenges. The speech revolves around the metaphor of the "man in the arena," contrasting those who actively engage in life's struggles with those who stand on the sidelines, criticizing without contributing. Roosevelt argues that it is far more honorable to strive for high achievement, even if it means risking failure, than to remain inactive and complacent.


This message resonates deeply with Rotarians, particularly in our relentless battle against polio. Since 1985, Rotary has been at the forefront of this fight, a daunting task that embodies the essence of Roosevelt's words - the valor in striving valiantly, in erring and coming short again and again, yet persisting in the noble pursuit. Facing geographic and political barriers, funding challenges, and public skepticism, Rotary has stood firm. These hurdles were not endpoints but catalysts for innovation, learning, and renewed determination. Rotarians worldwide adapted strategies, rallied support, and forged partnerships, turning setbacks into stepping stones. This journey is a testament to the power of resilience - the very core of Rotary's mission.


Learning from each setback, Rotary has exemplified that failure is not a defeat but a part of the path to success. This approach has led to groundbreaking strategies in public health, from targeted vaccination campaigns to advanced disease surveillance. Every obstacle encountered and overcome has been a lesson, driving Rotary closer to its goal and becoming a model for future efforts.


What makes Rotary's fight against polio so inspirational is not just its scale but the global fellowship it has fostered. This movement has united people across continents, transcending borders and cultural divides. It has been a powerful demonstration of global citizenship, where collective effort and shared responsibility shine.


As the world nears the complete eradication of polio, Rotary's journey stands as a vivid embodiment of Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena." It is a narrative of hope, learning, and triumph, reminding us of what humanity can achieve when driven by a commitment to a greater good. This fight against polio is more than a public health initiative; it's a symbol of what can be accomplished when courage and perseverance guide our actions. The story of this battle is far from over, but with each step forward, Rotary continues to inspire, showing the world the extraordinary feats possible when we dare to step into the arena for a noble cause. This is not just Rotary's story; it is an invitation to all, to join in the effort, to be a part of this monumental journey towards a polio-free world.

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