This I Believe

Supplee, Henderson, Jr.


  • Henderson Suplee talks about the importance of opportunity in life and achieving harmony.
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And now, This I Believe. The living philosophies of thoughtful men and women presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow
This I Believe. Is the American pioneer spirit dead? Some people think it died with the passing of the frontier. Henderson Suplee Jr. says “no.” His work in industry, in education, and in welfare bears out his confidence. Vice-president of the Atlantic Refining Company, an active trustee of schools, colleges, hospitals, and the Philadelphia Community Chest, Henderson Supplee is a man whose principles have a real effect on the life of his community. Here now is the statement of the beliefs he
lives by.
I’m going to emphasize just one segment of my personal creed. One of the earliest, definite influences on my life was the story of my grandfather’s earliest experience. As a young man, he left his home in Pennsylvania to start a business career in Virginia. The outbreak of the Civil War forced him to abandon his new home and his business establishment. He retained only a horse and carriage, which he used to drive his wife and their infant son back to Pennsylvania, where he faced the problem of how to support a young family. Despite a series of crushing disappointments, he finally built-up a small dairy business. He was always confident that the opportunity existed to achieve success if he
tried persistently enough. And so, the word “opportunity” has come to have a very intimate and significant meaning for me.
In many lands, the opportunity does not exist for people to achieve beyond the positions of their birth or to rise again after they have been knocked down by misfortune. My grandfather’s experience has caused me to believe that opportunity, as we know it in this country, is one of the most precious ingredients of our system. Of course, I use the term in the broad sense: the opportunity for people to carve out useful careers for the benefit of their families and communities.
Opportunity by itself is empty without the prospect of satisfying reward. My concept of satisfaction
may be different from somebody else’s. To me, the highest satisfaction derives from achievement, and I don’t mean the glorification of personal success. Thomas Carlisle’s writings brought the message home to me in college. I remember his earnest lines: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might.”
As a youngster, I enjoyed modeling in clay. As a businessman, I enjoy helping to model an enterprise in which men and women can profitably use their skills and resources for the benefit of themselves, their families, and the public they serve. Thus, I believe that the infinite capacity for taking pains is essential to high achievement in business and all other useful walks of life and will be as rewarding
for other earnest, thoughtful people as for the genius who molds a raw, lump of clay into a museum piece.
As I think about it, I have realized that even my community activities have been motivated by a strong conviction of the part that opportunity plays in our way of life. For example, most people refer to hospitals and related social agencies as “charities.” Some time ago, I began to work for these institutions and they ceased to have, for me, the patronizing significance we associate with the term “charity.” Instead, I see them as necessary parts in the pattern of a community. Without them, a large city simply couldn’t cope with its human problems.
Through our great networks of privately supported agencies, opportunity is preserved for countless people to achieve normal and useful lives. Believing, as I do, that this preservation of opportunity is vital to our system, I not only feel a responsibility but find satisfaction in helping with such enterprises. Somehow there is ample reward from the sense of better balance in my personal life and a sense of belonging to my community.
That was Henderson Supplee Jr., a native Philadelphian who did not end his education when he left the ivy covered halls of Princeton.