This I Believe

With a name like This I Believe and with the involvement from Edward R. Murrow, you might think that this show was an editorial platform for Murrow. However, it was not an editorial vehicle for Murrow. It was a show about Americans and their beliefs.

In another, more cynical time, Murrow and This I Believe would probably be called naive, but with Murrow’s reputation for journalistic integrity, his unapologetic love for America, and the time period, it was a hit. He could see that, after the last war, and with the looming shadow of the Cold War, Americans needed to find themselves again. They needed to remember what they believe.

The biggest problem he ran into was top management at his own network. They increasingly tried to control the editorial direction, continually placing yokes on the news division and trying to make sponsors happy. Eventually, out of several shows Murrow was pitching, the brass approved This I Believe. The show was about beliefs. Not religious beliefs but about deep personal beliefs, the things that drive a person.

During the five-minute shows, different people wrote brief essays and presented them on the air. Some of the people who presented essays included Aldous Huxley who presented an essay about self-knowledge and the ability to change; Red Barber, the announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, presented an essay about spirituality. Other presenters included Presidents Truman and Hoover, Jackie Robinson, Martha Graham, Alfred Landon. Subjects covered included faith, discrimination, freedom, imperfection, responsibility and so much more.

In Murrow’s introduction to the show, he talked about how people were reluctant to talk or did not think they had anything worth saying. These are people like Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman who contributed so much to her country. Can you imagine that she hesitated to participate because she did not believe she and anything of value to say? Amazing.

This I Believe was Murrow’s attempt to push back the tide of fear and cynicism beginning to burrow into the country. As Murrow summarized the show, “This reporter’s beliefs are in a state of flux. It would be easier to enumerate the items I do not believe in, than the other way around. And yet in talking to people, in listening to them, I have come to realize that I don’t have a monopoly on the world’s problems. Others have their share, often far bigger than mine. This has helped me to see my own in truer perspective: and in learning how others have faced their problems—this has given me fresh ideas about how to tackle mine.”

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