Series Host Jay Allison
Series Producer Dan Gediman
NPR.org, April 4, 2005 · This I Believe® is an exciting national project that invites you to write about the core beliefs that guide your daily life. NPR will air these personal statements from listeners each Monday on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. By inviting Americans from all walks of life to participate, series producers Dan Gediman and Jay Allison hope to create a picture of the American spirit in all its rich complexity.
This I Believe is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. In creating This I Believe, Murrow said the program sought "to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization."
In spite of the fear of atomic warfare, increasing consumerism and loss of spiritual values, the essayists on Murrow's series expressed tremendous hope. "We hear a country moving toward more equality among the races and between genders," says Gediman. "We hear parents writing essays that are letters to their newborn children expressing the hopes and dreams they have for them. And we hear the stories of faith that guide people in their daily experiences."
Each day, millions of Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists and secretaries -- anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. Their words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism and racial division.
"As in the 1950s, this is a time when belief is dividing the nation and the world," says Allison about life today. "We are not listening well, not understanding each other -- we are simply disagreeing, or worse. Working in broadcast communication, there's a responsibility to change that, to cross borders, to encourage some empathy. That possibility is what inspires me about this series."
In reviving This I Believe, Allison and Gediman say their goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, they hope to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.
NPR's This I Believe is independently produced by This I Believe, Inc. in Louisville, Ky., and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Mass. Find out more about the people behind This I Believe.
Support for This I Believe is provided by Capella University, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Righteous Persons Foundation.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson pioneered the integration of American professional atheletics by becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball. Bob Sandberg/Library of Congress hide caption
This essay aired circa 1952.
At the beginning of the World Series of 1947, I experienced a completely new emotion, when the National Anthem was played. This time, I thought, it is being played for me, as much as for anyone else. This is organized major league baseball, and I am standing here with all the others; and everything that takes place includes me.
About a year later, I went to Atlanta, Georgia, to play in an exhibition game. On the field, for the first time in Atlanta, there were Negroes and whites. Other Negroes, besides me. And I thought: What I have always believed has come to be.
And what is it that I have always believed? First, that imperfections are human. But that wherever human beings were given room to breathe and time to think, those imperfections would disappear, no matter how slowly. I do not believe that we have found or even approached perfection. That is not necessarily in the scheme of human events. Handicaps, stumbling blocks, prejudices — all of these are imperfect. Yet, they have to be reckoned with because they are in the scheme of human events.
Whatever obstacles I found made me fight all the harder. But it would have been impossible for me to fight at all, except that I was sustained by the personal and deep-rooted belief that my fight had a chance. It had a chance because it took place in a free society. Not once was I forced to face and fight an immovable object. Not once was the situation so cast-iron rigid that I had no chance at all. Free minds and human hearts were at work all around me; and so there was the probability of improvement. I look at my children now, and know that I must still prepare them to meet obstacles and prejudices.
But I can tell them, too, that they will never face some of these prejudices because other people have gone before them. And to myself I can say that, because progress is unalterable, many of today's dogmas will have vanished by the time they grow into adults. I can say to my children: There is a chance for you. No guarantee, but a chance.
And this chance has come to be, because there is nothing static with free people. There is no Middle Ages logic so strong that it can stop the human tide from flowing forward. I do not believe that every person, in every walk of life, can succeed in spite of any handicap. That would be perfection. But I do believe — and with every fiber in me — that what I was able to attain came to be because we put behind us (no matter how slowly) the dogmas of the past: to discover the truth of today; and perhaps find the greatness of tomorrow.
I believe in the human race. I believe in the warm heart. I believe in man's integrity. I believe in the goodness of a free society. And I believe that the society can remain good only as long as we are willing to fight for it — and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist.
My fight was against the barriers that kept Negroes out of baseball. This was the area where I found imperfection, and where I was best able to fight. And I fought because I knew it was not doomed to be a losing fight. It couldn't be a losing fight-not when it took place in a free society.
And in the largest sense, I believe that what I did was done for me — that it was my faith in God that sustained me in my fight. And that what was done for me must and will be done for others.