Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th President, spoke at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23rd, 1910. The title of his speech was "Citizenship in a Republic" and the best known words of that address are:
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.
John Edwards is the man in the arena.
Obama points to Edward's vote for the AUMF as if he himself voted against it. Obama wasn't there. Obama wasn't in the arena. He didn't vote. He was safely on the sidelines. Obama's opinion counted for nothing...and if Iraq had turned out differently, I have little doubt Obama would be saying something far different. In retrospect Edwards erred, has the courage to admit his mistake, and wants to correct it. Neither Obama or Clinton will admit missing the vote to confirm Mukasey was a mistake...they offer only excuses. Edwards was the man in the arena who erred and admitted it. Obama and Clinton? Not so much!
Obama recently spoke derogatorily about Edward's career as a hugely successful "trial lawyer." I suppose it's fine to teach law and write opinions and briefs, as Obama has done, but where is justice sought and obtained if not in a jury trial? It's fine for Obama to make his choices...it's not fine for him to criticize the work of another man. In Roosevelt's words,
There are many men who feel a kind of twisted pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt.
Edwards was the man in the arena.
Remembering that Roosevelt's audience was the elite of France, he also had these words to say:
It is well if a large proportion of the leaders in any republic, in any democracy, are, as a matter of course, drawn from the classes represented in this audience to-day; but only provided that those classes possess the gifts of sympathy with plain people and of devotion to great ideals.
In all fairness, I think both Obama and Edwards possess the gift of sympathy with plain folks. It is only Edwards, however, that has made ending poverty the keystone of his campaign. His health care plan provides care for everyone. Some may not like his methodology, but it is a big step towards Single Payer and I'm convinced Edwards can pull it off. Without Edward's push for UHC, Hillary Clinton would still be talking about doing something during her "second term" and Obama might or might not be pushing for health care. Edwards is the man in the arena.
Finally, and this is strictly a personal opinion... I want someone in the White House who has, as the Greeks say "suffered his way to wisdom." I want a man, or woman, who has made mistakes and learned from those mistakes. I want someone who has been on the battlefield of justice, not someone who has only read about it. I want someone who has suffered some of life's greatest indignities and chosen to survive...and to not just survive but set the example for others. John and Elizabeth Edwards have been in that arena...bloodied, but emerging strong and valiant. I can trust what they will do by what they have learned and what they have done.
I'll close with two additional quotes from Roosevelt's address to the Sorbonne:
The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher.
We sincerely and earnestly believe in peace; but if peace and justice conflict, we scorn the man who would not stand for justice though the whole world came in arms against him.
Our leadership in Washington, both Executive and Congressional, is abysmal. Only a few of our elected representatives have demonstrated the courage and leadership we must have if we are to survive as a nation. I believe both Edwards and Obama offer higher standards of leadership than anything we've seen in years. I believe John Edwards will fight for me, you, and for justice...and tear into both the Republicans and backsliding Democrats.. I'm not yet convinced of that about Obama. Huge change comes not from compromise, but confrontation. We all know this is going to be a fight to the death with the Republican party...and after that we'll still be dealing with the likes of shameless Joe Rubberlips and others. Edwards is the candidate I most trust to be in the arena representing the American people.