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October 31, 2013

Mandela's inspiring use of "The Man in the arena" to create harmony

Citizenship in a Republic is the title of a speech given by the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.

Nelson Mandela gave the captain of the national South African rugby team  Francois Pienaar, a copy of "The Man in the Arena" passage from President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt's speech Citizenship in a Republic  to inspire him and his team.
Mandela marshalled the South African nation to support the National Rugby team. This was not easy to do as blacks hated the sport of rugby which they saw as 'white' dominated.

Mandela set out to change the consciousness of the South African nation through certain actions that promoted the letting go of hate and anger. He showed that he could forgive his former oppressors by ,for example, meeting with Pienar and giving him the inspiring passage below.

The most quoted passage is on page seven of the 35-page speech and is referred to as "The Man in the Arena":

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.

Someone who is heavily involved in a situation that requires courage, skill, or tenacity (as opposed to someone sitting on the sidelines and watching), is sometimes referred to as "the man in the arena."

The South African side eventually defeated the heavily favoured All Blacks.



We are privileged that sports  became for Mandela a road for national forgiveness.

Sport,” he said, “has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” He used that speech a number of times, honed and developed it to later include an overt reference to the breaking down of racial barriers and of all forms of discrimination.”

In Mandela's time as leader he not only brought the Rugby World cup competition to South Africa but also the cricket world cup and finally the Football world cup.

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