Teddy Roosevelt and the Psychology of Military Prepardness

“There are higher things in this life than the soft and easy enjoyment of material comfort.  It is through strife, or the readiness for strife, that a nation must win greatness. We ask for a great navy, partly because we feel that no national life is worth having if the nation is not willing, when the need shall arise, to stake everything on the supreme arbitrariment of war, and to pour out its blood, its treasure, and its tears like water, rather than submit to the loss of honor and reknown.”

Amazing quote, whatever you think about Roosevelt’s militaristic and nationalistic world view.  But President McKinley’s response to Roosevelt’s speech reveals an interesting aspect of decision psychology, one I write about in Critical Decisions:  the way that responsibility influences people’s willingness to make bold choices.  McKinley was on record as promoting a policy of non-aggression, but spoke favorably about Roosevelt’s speech:

“I suspect that Roosevelt is right, and the only difference between him and me is that mine is the greater responsibility.”

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The Ideal President: Someone Who Isn't Running for Office?

In 1895, Teddy Roosevelt was asked if he was hoping some day to be President.  He flew off in a rage.  Part of his rant is revealing, and might have helped Mitt Romney if he’d come across this quote earlier in his life:

“I must be wanting to be President. Every young man does. But I won’t let myself think of it; I must not, because if I do, I will begin to work for it, I’ll be careful, calculating, cautious in word and act, and so—I’ll beat myself!”

Perhaps in today’s media saturated world, this approach won’t work as well.  On the other hand, I have to wonder whether people could overcome Romney’s calculatedness, his calculated cautiousness.  I’m no expert on political campaigns.  But as a citizen I’ll say this: I’d love to see more candidates who haven’t spent their lives preparing for a Presidential run, and who have not been afraid to be bold.
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