The History of 'This I Believe'
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.