NORRIS: For our Monday series, This I Believe, we've received almost 10,000 essay submissions. They come from all over the country, from young and old, from many backgrounds and professions. Recently one came in at our website from Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher. He was President Clinton's first Secretary of State and served for four years. Here's our series curator, independent producer, Jay Allison (ph).
JAY ALLISON: More than two decades ago, Warren Christopher was Deputy Secretary of State for President Jimmy Carter. He was the chief American negotiator in the talks leading to the release of the American hostages in Iran on Ronald Reagan's inauguration day in 1981. It was a formative time for this country as it was for Christopher's beliefs. Incidentally, he was in his car when he heard our series on the radio and when he came up with the theme for his writing. Here's Warren Christopher with his essay for This I Believe.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER: One night recently I was driving down a two-lane highway at about 60 miles an hour. A car approached from the opposite direction at about the same speed. As we passed each other, I caught the other driver's eye for only a second. I wondered whether he might be thinking, as I was, how dependent we were on each other at that moment. I was relying on him not to fall asleep, not to be distracted by a cell phone conversation, not to cross over into my lane and bring my life suddenly to an end. And though we had never spoken a word to one another he relied on me in just the same way.
Multiplied a million times over, I believe that is the way the world works. At some level we all depend upon one another. Sometimes that dependence requires us simply to refrain from doing something like crossing over the double yellow line. And sometimes it requires us to act cooperatively with allies or even with strangers.
Back in 1980 I was negotiating for the release of the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran. The Iranians refused to meet with me face to face, insisting instead that we send messages back and forth to the government of Algeria. Although I had never before worked with the Algerian foreign minister, I had to rely on him to receive and transmit, with absolute accuracy, both the words and nuances of my messages. With his indispensable help, all 52 Americans came home safely.
As technology shrinks our world, the need increases for cooperative action among nations. In 2003, doctors in five nations were quickly mobilized to identify the SARS virus, an action that saved thousands of lives. The threat of international terrorism has shown itself to be a similar problem. One requiring coordinated action by police and intelligence forces across the world. We must recognize that or fates are not ours alone to control.
In my own life, I've put great stock in personal responsibility. But as the years have passed I've also come to believe that there are moments when one must rely upon the good faith and judgments of others. So while each of us faces, at one time or another, the prospect of driving alone down a dark road, what we must learn with experience is that the approaching light may not be a threat but a shared moment of trust.
ALLISON: Warren Christopher with his essay for This I Believe. In 1950 when Christopher was 25, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. At that time, Douglas wrote his own This I Believe essay. To see it or to submit one of your own as Christopher did, please visit our website at npr.org. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.