Teddy Roosevelt's Secret

In figuring out success, don't scoff at optimism

Why do some people succeed, and some not? The answer may seem obvious. Jim Hightower, the liberal humorist from Texas, said the elder George Bush "was born on third base, and thought he'd hit a triple." A funny crack, but captious. Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliott were born to the same privilege. Sickly Teddy overcame and gloriously prospered. Elliott, the golden boy (and father of Eleanor), died an alcoholic disgrace at 34.

When you apply the question to entire societies, you enter into a conundrum that may be approached as a sort of cultural-genome project. What is our social and...

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