Article and Photo by Pam Vukelic

“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 enthusiasm, 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 worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

In June, during a professional development class at NDSU, I spent two days studying the work of Brené Brown. Her book, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” is predicated in part on that TR quote.

Recently, President Obama referenced the quote in his eulogy for Senator John McCain. He said,

“Roosevelt’s men in the arena seems tailored to John McCain. Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short but always relish a good fight. A contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Isn’t that the spirit we celebrate this week? That striving to be better, to do better, worthy of the great inheritance our founders bestowed. “

TR looms large in Medora, where I recently spent a few days. He makes an appearance in the Medora Musical, his statue graces the front of the new theatre building, and his namesake hotel marks the center of town. And I challenge you to resist the ubiquitous bespectacled Teddy bears.

A TR impersonator showed up at the retreat I was attending and recited the quote. Later that evening, the Cashman Auctionisters made reference to those words in their inspiring and hilarious scholarship fundraising activity. It was remarkable to me that a quote from a 1910 speech given at the Sorbonne in Paris has so much resonance in today’s world.

The retreat was sponsored by Inspired Woman magazine. The theme was ELEVATE Your Purpose, Influence, and Skills. In the beauty of the Badlands and in the aura of Medora we met and were inspired.

Noreen Keesey encouraged us to elevate our success. There’s a wonderful story (easily found online) titled “Let the Rabbits Run” that is a great reminder of the joys found in our differences. She encouraged us to read the works of Donald O. Clifton that deal with discovering our strengths.

Jeanne Masseth seemed to be echoing one of Brené Brown’s practices. Ms. Brown carries a short list in her wallet of the names of people whose opinions matter to her. To make the list, you must love her for her strengths as well as her struggles. Jeanne had us reflect on the five people with whom we spend the most time. She pointed out that in many ways we are the average of those five people and encouraged us to remember it is more important to be interested than interesting. It’s something to keep in mind if we can choose who these five people are. The book “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller is on her list of recommendations.  

Melanie Carvell addressed three important topics: meditation, mindfulness, and kindness. Meditation can help relieve pain, reduce symptoms of depression, and ease anxiety.  There are many apps available with meditation suggestions. She recommended “Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation” by Suze Schwartz and “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” by Dan Harris. Melanie left us with the question, “How do you leave others feeling when they cross your path?” and a list of 50 ideas for acts of kindness.

Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, presenter of Top 10 Practices of Female Game-Changers, used her experiences in training Minnesota Vikings team members to provide timely examples. She reminded us of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Cindra’s book, “Beyond Grit,” is now on my list of books to read.

What a meaningful conference Jody and Marci orchestrated for us! Their attention to the tiniest of details was apparent. Being out on a hike in the Badlands or being entertained by the Cashman sisters as Auctionisters, there clearly was something for everyone. New friendships were formed, and old friends became closer friends. And, oh, there are so many elevating practices to be adopted.   

Pam Vukelic recently retired from a long career as a FACS (Family and Consumer Science) instructor. Inspired to do lots more reading and adopt some speakers’ recommendations, she is grateful to have more free time.