Tuesday, March 12, 2013

This I Believe

There was a radio broadcast in the early 1950s that was hosted by journalist Edward R. Murrow called This I Believe. People from all over - the famous and the not so famous - submitted essays to the program about their fundamental beliefs and philosophies. The thoughts featured were more of a personal nature than a religious one. 

Binx Bolling, narrator of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, made of point of listening to the five-minute radio show every night at ten.

On the program hundreds of the highest-minded people in our country, thoughtful and intelligent people, people with mature inquiring minds, state their personal credos. The two of three hundred I have heard so far were without exception admirable people.

Producer and songwriter Dan Gediman along with journalist and producer Jay Allison were instrumental in reviving this show in 2005 which in turn has led to the publication of at least six books of essays written by folks from all walks of life. 

The essays were aired weekly as part of various programs on NPR from 2005 to 2009. Now the series runs weekly on PRI's Bob Edwards Weekend and Sirius XM's The Bob Edwards Show

(As an aside, I have all sorts of connections here. Both Mr. Gediman and Mr. Edwards are from my hometown. And, I am related to Edward R. Murrow through marriage on my father's side of the family. A distant connection I know, but still...)

I have read the first This I Believe book which contains eighty essays including a selection of those written for the 1950s radio show. There are thoughts from Helen Hayes, Carl Sandburg, Helen Keller, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Newer essays are contributed by Bill Gates, Colin Powell, Isabel Allende, and Alan Lightman.

I bought the book at a used bookstore in Charlotte, North Carolina a couple of years ago while visiting my brother. I read it during the visit and left it with him. I must admit I enjoyed reading the older essays best. But then I am an Old School sort of woman.

The website (thisibelieve.org) continues on with this tradition. Here are archived over 100,000 essays submitted over the years. Through the site one can read these essays (including ones from the original broadcasts) and link to audio versions as well. 

After reading the book I was prompted to write my own This I Believe essay but have done nothing with it. I see that I can submit it to the website for consideration. The guidelines are brief - share your belief in 350-500 words. Be positive and be personal.

Give it a try. Read a couple of the essays online or pick up one of the books and then see if you are not inspired to commit your own thoughts to paper. I bet you will be.


  1. What a fascinating history! I was familiar with the NPR stories, but not with the1950s versions. What an amazing list of writers.

    I hope yours will appear on the website!

    1. Isn't it wonderful that you can listen to the actual voices of Jackie Robinson, Arnold Toynbee, Rebecca West and others as they read their essays. What a treasure.

  2. Thank you, Belle. I've bookmarked the website for when I have time to read and listen, and know that I will enjoy the essays. I do not remember the radio series of the '50s, but, would sometimes listen to the NPR series. I'm excited to visit the site.

    1. Hi Penny. I learned about the '50s radio program from the book and was reminded of it when it was mentioned in 'The Moviegoer'. I don't know if my parents ever listened to it.

      And yes, the site looks like a wonderful place to spend some time.