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The Critic Never Counts: Values, Leadership Always Do

former united states president teddy roosevelt

A November 1906 file photo showing then-U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (C) sitting on a steam shovel at the Culebra Cut of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1901. In 1902, Congress approved to buy the rights to the canal from the French. (Library of Congress Files/AFP via Getty Images) 

Rana Al Saadi By Thursday, 28 December 2023 02:48 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

"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 credits belong to the man who is actually in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who tries valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming."

---Theodore Roosevelt - Sorbonne Université, France, 1910.

Theodore Roosevelt’s famous phrase from his 1910 speech at Sorbonne Université in France, "where the doer of deeds could have done them better," reminds me of my education in Iraq.

My father was a high school mathematics teacher in Baghdad for almost three decades.

In the same Teddy Roosevelt speech about the man "in the arena," quoted above, the former American president highlights the importance of education:

This writer believes, of course, in giving to all the people a good education.

But the education must contain much besides book-learning in order to be really good.

We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities.

Self restraint, self mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution --- these are the qualities which mark a masterful people.

Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside. 

In an earlier colmun, I recounted how during World War II, when travel for most Iraqis was prohibited, many Iraqis decided that the best alternative to an English education was the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. The Jesuit motto was and still is “Ad Majorem Gloriam Dei,” ("For the Greater Glory of God.").

In 1932, American Jesuits from Boston founded a catholic high school in Bagdad: Baghdad College. Before its "dismissal" by the corrupt Baath party in 1969, Baghdad College had become Iraq’s most famous secondary school, having produced an Iraqi prime minister, a deputy prime minister, a vice president, among many other notable alumni.

Today the Jesuit homepage explains that, "We are all called to create a hope-filled future."

My own educational journey, from elementary school, high school, and college in Baghdad, to graduate school in Washington D.C.’s Jesuit Georgetown University, brings me to this professional crossroad: It is time now for me to re-enter the arena of Iraqi education as a champion for bringing back the essence of American education to my hometown Baghdad.

In my hometown, elementary school education was simplified enough to provide me with the ability to understand math, English, Arabic, history, and science well enough in high school to advance to college.

But the Iraqi "doers of deeds" in this writer's education "could have done it better."

My Iraqi classmates and I were successful enough because we were excited about learning new skills. We students were ready to learn new skills, but we "could have done it better."

As a math teacher for almost three decades, my father was passionate about his teaching career. He often talked about the need to educate all his students the best way he could possibly do.

He loved math, and believed that math was an essential part in any kind of human life experience.

The necessity of believing this concept led my father always to seek better ways of teaching, which resulted in him being respected and trusted by his students. Students were not only learning math, but were seeking my father’s advice in different aspects of their life choices.

I was able to understand my father’s concept of teaching even deeper when my family and I immigrated to America in 2008.

I witnessed my older son joining his American elementary school at first grade.

During the years of his elementary school, the pattern of teaching our children was loving and with guidance about life choices.

The essential part of this guidance was teaching the children the right of choice, and the responsibility of both imposing consequences when their choices are wrong, and encouraging students to feel proud of themselves when they make right choices.

During his various teaching career assignments, my late father pushed for the best American-style school education in Iraq, both in private and public schools. He had traveled the world, and was influenced by modern American education and western ethics.

My father endeavored to incorporate the best of American educational systems in Iraq when he was the general director for the Ministry of Education in Baghdad back in 2003-2005.

Challenges were heavily embedded due to both lack of security and opposition by different political and religious parties freshly framed in the time of the liberation of Iraq from Sadam’s long dictatorship.

This writer's mission now is to help build a better future for the people of Iraq by restoring the American Jesuit educational legacy as a tribute for our sacrifice and service to God’s will.

The Jesuit motto, Ad Majorem Gloriam Dei, combined with the advice of President Theodore Teddy Roosevelt, will empower future Iraqi leaders better to govern the Iraqi people, and, quoting Teddy Roosevelt’s Sorbonne University speech, to save the Iraqi people "from being controlled from the outside."

Rana Alsaadi is a refugee from Iraq and now a naturalized American citizen. Prior to co-founding PACEM Solutions International in Falls Church, Virginia, Mrs. Alsaadi held multiple Senior Executive positions and served with the US Department of State as a Cultural Advisor and the US Department of Defense as a Translator/Analyst in Iraq. Mrs. Alsaadi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Baghdad University and her Executive Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. Read Rana Al Saadi's Reports — More Here.

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Teddy Roosevelt’s famous phrase from his 1910 speech at Sorbonne University in France, “where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” reminds me of my education in Iraq.
roosevelt, sorbonne, iraq
Thursday, 28 December 2023 02:48 PM
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