From the Right



Life's Great Adventure

Jackie Gingrich Cushman on

This week, I am staying at a ranch in Montana. The state is called Big Sky Country for a reason. The sky is enormous, the mountains high, the trees plentiful and the sun bright. The nights are dark and filled with sounds that are different from the sirens and street racing that I hear in Atlanta, where I live. The cell service is nonexistent, and the Wi-Fi is limited, a reminder that tells us it is good, occasionally, to cut the cords of connectivity to the world at large. It's also a reminder that our country is vast, the differences great. While it's easy to be caught up in our own small world, it's worth our while to lift our heads, look around and expand our views from time to time.

Being out West reminds me of President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, who served was the 26th president of the United States. In 1901, when President William McKinley was assassinated, the 42-year-old Roosevelt became the nation's youngest president. He served until 1909.

Roosevelt had grown up in an era of rapid change. He had watched President Abraham Lincoln's funeral from his window when he was six. A sickly child, he had suffered from asthma. His father would take him out on carriage rides at night when he was suffering attacks. Teddy worked hard to overcome his physical ailments, and he did.

His first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, died in 1884 at age 22. Afterward, Roosevelt moved to the Dakota Territory. There, he hardened himself physically even further. He served as a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War and led a charge against Spanish troops on San Juan and Kettle Hill in Cuba. He loved the outdoors and embraced the strenuous life. For him, life was intended to be full of obstacles to overcome. He would probably be appalled at how many Americans want lives of leisure and inactivity, content with sitting on their couches, watching TV, playing video games and allowing their bodies to fall into disrepair.

While he did not serve in World War I, he sent four of his sons. After he received the news that one of his sons, Quentin, had died, he wrote: "Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die: and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life. Both life and death are parts of the same great adventure."

These are great reminders for us today. First, life transcends us individuals; we live in a nation and a world that is larger than us and that will endure after we are gone. We need to broaden our worldviews and remind ourselves of this.

The second message is that there are things we can do ourselves. By that, I don't mean that we should get the politicians to do things we can assign to bureaucrats, but instead, the things we can do as individuals to give ourselves, our children and our grandchildren a better future. We can have a limited government only when we have an active civil society. Civic activity and philanthropy are the stitches that hold the American fabric together.


The third message is that it is important to work hard. "There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live -- I have no use for the sour-faced man -- and next that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do," Theodore Roosevelt told schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, New York, on Christmas in 1898.

Today, we need to refocus on these core lessons. If we live our lives right, we will improve our world and pass it intact to our children and grandchildren. We need to not only live for ourselves, but we also need to think about future generations. We should be involved in government and civic activities. Government encroaches when people are inactive. The best way to limit government is to get involved. We should work hard to do this. Hard work is good for the body and the soul. Finally, let's not be sour-faced. Today, there are too many people who are sour-faced in our country; they look at what they don't have instead of the opportunities that they do have.

Life is a great adventure. It does not last long. We should take advantage of every minute, work hard for future generations and enjoy life along the way.


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