“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” — Theodore Roosevelt.
Many of us may remember learning about this famous “The Man in the Arena Speech” in our school history class. It was delivered by President Roosevelt in Paris in 1910. I remember being told it was about leadership, integrity, and hard work. And while it most certainly is about all of those things, the message continues to transform for me at different stages in my life. For example, I’ve dedicated my career to pursuing justice, doing right, and being “in the arena,” fighting for victims of crime, a cause I passionately believe in.
However, as I reflect today on the upcoming Nov. 11 Veterans Day, President Roosevelt’s speech takes on yet another meaning, one of hope and healing for veterans who may find themselves in our court system. In 2018, Judge Marianne Hemmeter opened the very first veterans treatment court in Delaware Municipal Court. She recognized that many veterans return to civilian life with serious trauma, physical and mental, that could lead to their involvement in the criminal justice system. Appropriately entitled “Mission Court,” it is a different kind of arena for our veterans, but one that still requires them to fight for something or someone else — themselves. Mission Court continues today to be a treatment avenue for veterans who find themselves in the court system, a place of hope for those whose faces have been “marred by dust and sweat and blood,” in the name of service. Mission Court keeps our veterans accountable, while balancing their particular treatment. It operates in municipal court and functions with the dedication of numerous individuals, including court employees, volunteer veteran mentors, and community partners dedicated to the treatment and success of our veterans.
I was fortunate to serve Mission Court in my role as city prosecutor. I observed heroes who had tripped up by society’s standards. I observed fathers and sons fight for their family, and I observed firsthand the dedication of our community to rally behind veterans in this arena. As I participated in Mission Court, I was humbled to have even considered myself in the arena at one time. I remember one day in particular. Judge Hemmeter handed cards to participants. On the cards was President Roosevelt’s famous speech. I remember thinking that these are people who were truly in the arena and who are still in the arena. These are people “who strive valiantly; who errs,” but Mission Court helps veterans stand, willing to account for those errs. Perhaps most importantly, there is a community in Mission Court that is willing to stand with veterans, to help them come up again and again should they fall short. There is no judgment, only dedication to complete each participant’s mission.
On Nov. 8, Mission Court will hold a graduation for those veterans who have completed their mission. These men and women have dedicated themselves to just that, themselves, and rightfully so. Congratulations to all Mission Court graduates. You represent a worthy cause, one that is worth investing in, treating, and walking alongside. We are proud to have you in our community.
For others wanting to “get in the arena,” and help our veterans, consider volunteering as a Mission Court mentor or donating to a worthy cause like Save a Warrior. There are also a number of veteran organizations throughout central Ohio who rely on volunteers. Whatever you choose, perhaps most important is to remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points 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.”
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.