Being a creature of habit, as regular as a monk, and taking pleasure in the homeliest repetitions, I listen every night at ten to a program called This I Believe. Monks have their compline, I have This I Believe. 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 or three hundred I have heard so far were without exception admirable people. I doubt if any other country or any other time in history has produced such thoughtful and high-minded people, especially the women. And especially the South. I do believe the South has produced more high-minded women, women of universal sentiments, than any other section of the country except possibly New England in the last century. Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical panBrahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian.
If I had to name a single trait that all these people shared, it is their niceness. Their lives are triumphs of niceness. They like everyone with the warmest and most generous feelings. And as for themselves: it would be impossible for even a dour person not to like them.
Tonight’s subject is a playwright who transmits this very quality of niceness in his plays. He begins:
I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual—
Everyone on This I Believe believes in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual. I have noticed, however, that the believers are far from unique themselves, are in fact alike as peas in a pod.
I believe in music. I believe in a child’s smile. I believe in love. I also believe in hate.
This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt’s house. On This I Believe they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed that they usually hate his guts.
I did not always enjoy This I Believe. While I was living at my aunt’s house, I was overtaken by a fit of perversity. But instead of writing a letter to an editor, as was my custom, I recorded a tape which I submitted to Mr Edward R. Murrow. “Here are the beliefs of John Bickerson Bolling, a moviegoer living in New Orleans,” it began, and ended, “I believe in a good kick in the ass. This—I believe.” I soon regretted it, however, as what my grandfather would have called “a smart-alecky stunt” and I was relieved when the tape was returned. I have listened faithfully to This I Believe ever since.
I believe in freedom, the sacredness of the individual and the brotherhood of man—concludes the playwright.
I believe in believing. This—I believe.