Theodore Roosevelt made a habit of grabbing opportunity when it came within reach. As a skinny kid, he met a boxing coach and asked to be taught how to defend himself. He came across books and devoured them. He inherited some money when his father died suddenly and used it to pay for law school. He attended political meetings. He wanted to learn about war, so he researched and wrote a book about it. When he was asked to lead the Republican Party in his state, he accepted the opportunity. Many other invitations followed. When president, this poem by John James Ingalls hung on the wall in his executive office: It’s titled “Opportunity.”
Master of human destinies am I
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late
I knock unbidden once at every gate;
If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate.
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death: But those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore--
I answer not, and I return no more.