As we talk about and think through our nation’s history, why are there some people that continue to stand out? Just how does their memory continue to withstand all the time that has passed? Is it their position in life, or their money, or their accomplishments? I believe it has to do more with their character. That’s a word we don’t hear much about today but the truth is this – character makes leaders, and true leaders have a powerful influence in our society.

In 1898, when the United States went to war with Spain, a man by the name of Theodore Roosevelt was the assistant Secretary of the Navy. Now Roosevelt had quite a reputation as a frontiersman, and as being a man ready for any rough task needing to be done. So, with the “OK” of the U.S. Government, Theodore Roosevelt resigned his position and, along with his friend, Dr. Leonard Wood, began to form a small army of special men to fight that war. This group of men was to be all expert horsemen, and they were officially designated as the First United States Volunteer Cavalry.

Now, privately, Roosevelt wondered if anyone would volunteer for such a dangerous job – but to his credit literally thousands of men volunteered. They came from everywhere. And after they were chosen and trained, they were exceptionally good soldiers, a crack cavalry unit of 1,000 expert horsemen who came to be known as “Rough Riders”.

In a very short time these Rough Riders were ready for battle, so they traveled by train from Texas to Florida and were given their orders – to fight the Spaniards on a tiny island called Cuba.

But here’s where the twist comes – even though they had been trained as cavalry, they were told that their horses would have to be left behind – they would be foot soldiers.

But, not one Rough Rider quit or resigned. They would follow their leader, Theodore Roosevelt, into the very face of death.

On July 1, 1898, they saw that face of death and stood firm. With Theodore Roosevelt literally in the front leading his men by example, these 1,000 Rough Riders on foot, charged up San Juan Hill and won the battle. And Theodore Roosevelt became a national hero and, later, the youngest U.S. President in our history.

Just what makes a leader?  Character. And later in life Theodore Roosevelt gave one of the most powerful and quoted speeches ever, which contains a challenge we all must consider.

Listen to these telling words by Roosevelt:

“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 erring or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; …and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

What a speech! And now is the time for each of us in America to take a stand, to find our character, to quit watching from the sidelines and

Get in the arena!!

About Jerry Stewart

I am a story teller. Since 1998, I have been telling the true stories of our nation and those Americans gone before us.  To say the least, these stories have been well received by Americans, both young and old.  So, here’s where the stories have taken me.  In 1998, I was broadcasting my stories on just one radio station in Washington State.  Today, from Texas 15 years later, these programs are now broadcast through a syndicated radio network to over 400 radio stations all across America, with literally millions of listeners.

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“The Most Famous Tea Party in History”

    We’ve all heard of the Boston Tea Party, but few really know just what happened. The year was 1763 and Great Britain had just ended a war known as the “Seven Years War”, and this war had driven the British government so deep into debt that a series of tax laws were passed to help pay that debt – and these laws made their way to America.

Now, the way the colonists saw it was that they had no say or representation in their national government, and, therefore, Parliament had no right to tax them. This is where the saying came from, “no taxation without representation”.

Well, in 1766, Parliament passed what is called the “Declaratory Act”. This act gave the British government the authority to legislate the laws and rules for the American colonies, and in all cases the government had the final authority.

So, colonist groups began to organize at the grassroots level and they formed patriotic clubs and organizations known as the “Sons of Liberty”. They would use these club meetings to talk through their unfair circumstances and they began to send delegates and representatives to the British leaders to try and convince them that what they were doing was not for the good of the people. But the British government had their own ideas as to what was best for the people, so most of the time they would not even listen.

Starting to sound a little too familiar?

    So as the different Liberty groups in each city began to form and grow, they found themselves linking up with other city groups causing them to become bolder in their speaking out. In the City of Boston there was a famous elm tree where the Sons of Liberty would meet. This tree came to be known as the “Liberty Tree” and it became a rallying point for the growing colonist resistance against the British rule. Soon each city and community began to pick their own liberty tree as a meeting spot as a symbol of their individual liberty. As these liberty groups began to me in large numbers and the attendance began to grow, in their attempt to stop these meetings, the British government ordered that holding any meetings not authorized by the government was against the law. So, the Sons of Liberty members began to meet in secret.

Well, the struggle continued between the colonists and the British government with more and more laws being enacted. What seemed to be the final straw was that in 1773, a new act, the “Tea Act” was passed, placing a heavy tax on all tea transported to the colonies. Shortly after the Tea Act was passed, a number of ships entered Boston Harbor carrying on board hundreds of thousands of pounds of tea. When the local liberty group heard of the ship’s arrival, they sent a message to the ship’s captain not to unload the tea because they would not pay that tax. But the local British authorities would not budge, so there sat the three ships in Boston Harbor.

Now no one knows for sure who really planned that “tea party” or who the real leaders were, but one night somewhere between 30 and 130 Men thinly disguised as Indians boarded the three ships and, over the course of three hours, dumped all the tea into the harbor – this dumping of that tea became known as the “Boston Tea Party”. Interestingly enough, later that Tea Act was actually repealed, but the damage had already been done, and the people had determined that their government would not listen to them – and they began to move for independence.

So, here’s my question for you, “Are the events in our lives which make us wake up and act – are they good or bad?” It was patriot, Edmund Burke, who said, “He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skills; our antagonist is our helper”.

But this one thing we do know – if the British government had not pushed the colonists too far, well, today, we might still be speaking with a British accent.

And one last thought, “What should “We The People” be doing today if we feel we are not being heard?

And are mere protests enough? You tell me.

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