Not wanting to go the way of its former print rival, Newsweek, it is no surprise that Time magazine is looking for ways to generate buzz. Thus the provocative current cover story: “The Child Free Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children." I read the article while on vacation. Vacation with my family—including seven grandchildren, ironic, huh?
I immediately remembered reading something Theodore Roosevelt said, directly on point, in a famous speech more than a century ago—on April 23, 1910. I am aware that most American conservatives find little in the political ideas by Theodore Roosevelt worth salvaging, much less translating into present day policy. But he nailed it that day, not only by giving us his famous quote about “The Man in the Arena,” but also with something he said about “child free living.” It was part of a major address delivered at The University of Paris (The Sorbonne) titled “Citizenship In A Republic.”
Roosevelt left the White House in 1909 and was at the pinnacle of his renown a year later when he toured Europe. One journalist wrote at the time, “When he appears, the windows shake for three miles around. He has the gift, nay the genius of being sensational.” TR addressed a massive audience in the school’s grand amphitheater. The crowd included academicians, “ministers in court dress, army and navy officers in full uniform, nine hundred students,” and another 2,000 “ticket holders.”
The former president was introduced that day as “the greatest voice of the New World.” And hiding in the shadows of his remembered-as-the-man-in-the-arena-speech is a long since forgotten rhetorical rebuke to the ideas promoted in the current issue of Time: