Friday, April 16, 2021

"It is not the Critic who Counts"

By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Asthma, poor eyesight, bouts of illness: Theodore Roosevelt had more against him than for him. 

However, that did not stop Theodore Roosevelt from achieving his life goals.

He loved nature. Butterflies and birds were among his list of favorites. Often, the odors emulating from his bureau drawers smelled of dead mice and moles. His boyhood dream was to be a cowboy and travel out west. However, his ill health was a drawback. Bouts of sickness would plague him throughout his lifetime.

What Roosevelt did have in his favor—his abundant energy, an eager mind, and a willingness to learn.

He was born in New York City on October 27, 1858, to Theodore Roosevelt senior, a businessman. The Van Roosevelts came to America from Holland in 1644. Roosevelt's mother was Martha Bulloch, from a respected Georgia family.

Teedie (later changed to Teddy), as his family nicknamed him, was the second of four children. Teedie, reared in a well-to-do family, had servants who would come at his beck and call. Teedie’s passion for nature and the outdoors developed into an even stronger love for people and the oppressed.

Perhaps his strong desire to help the underdog evolved from his own inhibitions and the feeling of never quite measuring up to his peers. Little did Teedie know that, in the years to come, the American public would lovingly nickname him Teddy.

Roosevelt could not have dreamed God had a plan for him to become, at the age of forty-two, the youngest man ever to be president of the United States of America.

Because of his father's determination that Teddy would not be the weakling his health dictated, Teddy’s father built a gymnasium for him, complete with punching bags, dumbbells, and the horizontal bar. Teddy threw himself into exercise, conditioning his body to the rigors of sport and life.

Under his father’s strict orders, Teddy learned boxing and the value of hard work. As the years progressed, these lessons served him well when he traveled out west.

Theodore entered Harvard in 1876. Theodore was interested in everything. In 1881, at the age of twenty-three, he was elected to the New York Assembly. By 1884 Roosevelt became interested in national politics.

In the fall of 1878, Theodore met a lovely Boston girl named Alice Lee. They were married two years later in the fall of 1880 after he graduated from Harvard. His daughter was born on February 12, 1884, and Alice Roosevelt died two days later. Sadly, Theodore's mother had just died of typhoid fever!

He turned away from politics and poured his heart into his Dakota ranch, located on the Little Missouri River. His bottle-top eyeglasses earned him the title of “Four-eyes.” The rugged westerners soon realized that this four-eyes could throw a punch!

Roosevelt’s stamina and staunch determination earned him the respect of his new comrades. He rode like a cowboy, roped like a cowboy, and fiercely stood up to thieves, rustlers, and bad men, just like a cowboy.

As God would have it, one terrible winter demolished Roosevelt's cattle. His idea of becoming a cattle baron evaporated and washed down the Missouri River as his dead cattle had.

In the fall of 1886, Independents and Republicans asked him to run for Mayor of New York. However, Roosevelt took up writing and wrote "The Winning of the West." He remarried that year.

By the time Roosevelt reached thirty-eight, he realized what his life vocation should be—politics. The newly-elected President McKinley named Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, an older man, was feeling his age. Roosevelt was biting at the bit to take on more responsibilities, especially with a war brewing.

Roosevelt was not shy in letting his feelings be known, “No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war.” He voiced in a speech upon taking office, “The diplomat is the servant, not the master, of the soldier.”

Americans always had a soft heart toward the abused, and Spain's brutal methods to halt the people of Cuba's rebellion had Americans in an uproar.

Roosevelt felt in his heart that this rebellion would not end without interference from America. So, in the months leading up to the Spanish-American War, he prepared. As he had conditioned himself as a youth with his barbells and punching bag, Teddy called on his staunch friends from the west and his New York Polo buddies from the east to train for the unexpected.

After an anti-Spanish riot in Havana, the United States sent the USS Maine to protect U.S. citizens and property. Upon arrival, on February 15, 1898, an explosion sent the USS Maine to the sea's bottom!

President McKinley declared war on Spain on April 21, 1898. Roosevelt’s Roughriders were ill-equipped and inexperienced, yet Roosevelt led his Roughriders to victory against Spain, as I tell of in my novel, Destiny’s Whirlwind.

Neither Roosevelt nor McKinley knew that the Spanish-American War would lead to a deciding role in the interests of Europe and the rest of the world upon the onset of The Great War, World War I. But God did.

In 1901 Roosevelt was elected Vice-President to stand alongside President McKinley. With the assassination of President McKinley, Roosevelt assumed the office of President of the United States just six months after the 1901 election.

In my novels Destiny's Whirlwind and Destiny of Heart, we follow the pathway of this great man God took from an asthmatic and a weak-eyed boy to become one of America's greatest presidents.

I include only one of Roosevelt's enduring thought-provoking words. Many more of which you will find between the pages of my novels:

"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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Destiny’s Whirlwind:  Book 2: A death-bed promise, a dashing Rough Rider, the parable of the sower takes on unimaginable consequences.

A disgruntled in-law and a vindictive lawyer places the McConnell clan in the clutches of life’s tangled web of deception and greed. As Collina fights to keep her promise to her father, the words of Esther 8:6 ring in her thoughts, "How can I endure to see the evil that will come to my people?”


Destiny’s Whirlwind by Catherine Brakefield is a beautiful inspirational love story that will reel you in and win your heart…The story is beautifully written and filled with triumph and heartbreak. I couldn’t put it down…” L.S. Amazon Reader.

 Catherine says, "My readers inspire my writing!"

She is an award-winning author of Wilted Dandelions, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny. Her faith-based Destiny series is: Swept into Destiny, Destiny's Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz into Destiny.

She has written two pictorial history books.  Images of America; The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County. 

She is a longtime Michigan resident and lives with her husband of 49 years and their Arabian horses in the picturesque hills of Addison Township.  She loves traveling the byroads across America and spoiling her two handsome grandsons and two beautiful granddaughters!


The World Book Encyclopedia Volume 15

The Theodore Roosevelt Association

How Theodore Roosevelt Fell in Love with the American West



  1. A wonderful post, Catherine! I've always been fascinated by Teddy Roosevelt. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Linda Matchett, thank you for your comment! I've been a big Teddy fan most of my school life.

  2. Thank you for posting! I love learning more about this man, and his words are certainly inspiring!

    1. Connie R. Thank you! I always felt history did not do Teddy justice. He was a brilliant author and spokesman.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. Teddy Roosevelt was a notable character for sure.

    1. Jubileewriter thank you so much! And especially for your help before I published this! God Bless.