Daring Greatly

LA’S SCHOOLS AND OTHER MUSINGS-‘It’s not the critic who counts; the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms;

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.’

The words are from a Cadillac print ad in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. The ad is also in today’s LA Times and will be featured in a television commercial in tonight’s Oscar broadcast, all architecture and gritty black+white art-directed/styled+re-touched reality as portrayed by buffed models with bone structure to match the architecture.


The words are not some inspired ad-speak from some Madison Avenue copywriter based on a Oprah’s Book Club self-helper; they are not some #hashtag/slogan/buzzword/tagline to re-launch the Cadillac brand to WSJ readers and Oscar viewers. The MadMen/Don Draper wannabe’s at Publicis Worldwide have not given credit, but the words, edited+wordsmithed, are those of Theodore Roosevelt, spoken at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910 in a speech called “Citizenship in a Republic” – often called the “Man in the Arena” speech.

“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.”

[The speech in its entirety, and really worth reading, is here:


Misusing TR as a pitchman?

Not exactly. This is not ripping off Taylor Swift lyrics and putting them on a t-shirt.

The speech is in the public domain. It’s fair game. And by not citing TR as the author, Cadillac and Publicis can hardly be accused of channeling him as an endorser ….the way Quicken Loans implies with Washington, Lincoln and Franklin in their ads! And there is a generation of Americans who think TR is a comic character in the Night at the Museum franchise …and even more as ‘the one with the glasses’ on Mount Rushmore.

The question is one of ethics …and that’s not a subject the Ad Biz ever concerns itself with.

Plagiarism, Wikipedia says, is not a crime per se …but in academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense. If a fifth grader claims TR’s or another student’s words or work as his or her own, he or she is a cheater. If the ad agency of a division of General Motors does it’s OK.

But corporations are people, right? Wrong.

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Charlie Wilson, the former GM chief who became Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense said “What is good for the country is good for General Motors—and vice versa.”

Teddy Roosevelt the trustbuster would probably disagree. Ike, who later identified and warned us of the Military-Industrial Complex probably would too.

Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena is often cited as a paean of American Individualism+Exceptionalism and misunderstood to be a muscular proclamation of American Twentieth Century Imperialism. It is certainly a bold statement of Horatio Algerian stick-to-ative strive+achieve philosophy. The speech is both dated and timeless and recalls Kipling’s British imperialism. “If…” anyone?

But Roosevelt’s theme is the role, rights, expectations and responsibilities of the individual citizen in a republic, spoken as citizen of one-to-the-other at a time when there were only two major republics in the world. It is an instruction of ethical+moral leadership; its misuse is galling.

TR never spoke of the net-citizenship of the corporation in a republic.

I wasn’t inclined to buy a Cadillac – though that CTS-V Coupe looks fun. I am now less so.

TR is critical of critics and I plead guilty. Yet I feel tempted to call out those who ran the anti-Bennett Kayser “Coffee Cup” ad with TR’s quote critical of those who point out when the strong man stumbles. Of how their unnamed candidate could do better. ‘Doer of deeds’ …or ‘cold and timid soul’?

Does Roosevelt forgive he-who-dared-greatly-and-stumbled in attempting to give all students iPads?
No – because TR calls for ethical responsibility.

Are they-who-dared to pull the Parent Trigger in Orange County last week – and misfired – to be admired?

No; because you have to play by the rules …even if it’s your game and you made the rules up yourself!



By Associated Press, from the LA Daily News |

2/21/15, 11:17 AM PST | LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Unified School District is breaking ground on the last of more than 100 campuses that were funded by a $27 billion bond program.

Students, officials and community leaders gathered Saturday in suburban Maywood to commemorate the start of construction on South Region High School Number Eight at 5800 King Ave., Maywood, CA 90270

It’s the 131st school built under the bond program.

The campus will accommodate about 1,200 students and boast science labs and a library. It is scheduled to open in 2017.


As Jim McConnell, then the head of the building program said at the groundbreaking of the first school in the LAUSD bond program over a decade ago: “We love groundbreakings …but we love ribbon cuttings even more!”

Speaking as a member of the Bond Oversight Committee: There were moments we were afraid we wouldn’t get here in the largest public works project in the nation - and the most ambitious school construction program in history - but we always knew we had to. The effort spent in a worthy cause.

So it was, is and shall be.



(Scott Folsom is a parent and parent leader in LAUSD. He is the former President of Los Angeles 10th District PTSA and represents PTA as Vice-chair the LAUSD Construction Bond Citizen's Oversight Committee. Scott is a member of the California State PTA Board on Managers. He blogs at the excellent 4 LA Kids … where this perspective was originally posted.)




Vol 13 Issue 16

Pub: Feb 24, 2015