If we were to tread along Theodore Roosevelt’s path to manliness we would see a trail blazed through the jungles of strength and forests of knowledge. One of the most appealing qualities of the Colonel, both then and now, was that he could relate to the man on horseback just as well as the man at Harvard. Roosevelt had a desire to be the full-man, not just the jock or the cowboy or the lawyer or the writer. One of his particular loves was poetry. I have written in a previous article how he and his mentor, Bill Sewall, would meander through the woods reciting verses of their favorite works from memory. As President, one of Roosevelt’s favorite poems was written by the late Senator John James Ingalls, which is the subject of this #TRThursday article.
- #TRThursday articles give us some manly insight and wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt every Thursday. Sometimes a quote, sometimes a snippet of his life...always manly! Read other TRThursday articles here. -
Opportunity by John James Ingalls
I have no doubt that one of Roosevelt’s reasons for framing and hanging this particular poem on his Presidential office wall was the character of the man who wrote it. A stern abolitionist and some 25 years older than Roosevelt, Ingalls was a figure Roosevelt could admire. Noted for his sarcastic wit and courage, Ingalls was elected to the Kansas state Senate shortly after the state was admitted to the Union and was later elected to the U.S. Senate. Both Ingalls and Roosevelt shared a love of writing and were staunch supporters of Civil Service reform. By the time Roosevelt took the presidency, Ingalls had died, yet his legacy of seizing opportunity and fighting for reform was evident.
“Master of human destinies am I;
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk. I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and, passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late,
I knock unbidden once at every gate.
If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise, before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who hesitate
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain, and uselessly implore.
I answer not, and I return no more.” – Opportunity, John James Ingalls, 1833-1900
Where is opportunity presenting itself for you right now? Are you even looking for it? Where would you like to see opportunities in your life? Where can you make opportunities for other people?
That last question, I believe, is the one that hits home for me the most. We can’t control when opportunity will present itself for our benefit and we can’t always be prepared when it does, but we can make opportunities for others.