This I Believe

Bagnell, Francis James


  • Francis Bagnell talks about his success in football and the importance of humility that has given him an optimism and openness to make friends with the many people he meets.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. There will always be people to shake their heads and wonder what the younger generation is coming to and, fortunately, there will always be enough youngsters to defy those dubious ruminations. Francis J. Bagnell of Philadelphia is one of these. He comes from a big family and a poor one. He has had to make his own way up. "Reds" Bagnell, University of Pennsylvania All-American and now an enlisted man in the United States Navy, is the kind of product that restores one's faith in the basic soundness of hard, clean sportsmanship, which helped him mold the beliefs he shares with us now.
Since I have been playing football I have had a good deal of success, and this past year I concluded my college career by being picked on several All-America teams. But no matter how great my success might have been, there were always plays in the game that could make me feel like the worst player on the field. Possibly on one play I would run the ball a long distance for a touchdown, or maybe throw a nice pass for a good game. Then, the very next play, some alert lineman would knock me down easily. This has taught me there are plenty of people as good or more talented than I am. Sure I have athletic ability, but I try to remember I can't paint a picture or play the violin or solve a problem in nuclear physics.
I think I have learned that no matter how successful or talented a person is, he will always have limitations. But I think that if people can recognize their own limitations and, at the same time, the differences that exist between themselves and others, this can lead to a kind of harmony. You can see with your own two eyes, the harmony of living that already exists among different kinds of people: the musician, the athlete, the rich and the poor, the artist and the worker.
As a rather successful athlete, I have had the good fortune to meet and speak to many different kinds of groups and personalities. I was surprised at first to find these contacts were not difficult to make. I was able to harmonize almost immediately with everyone I met. I asked myself why.
I am no different from anybody else in having fears and uncertainties. I'm not sure of the exact answer. Maybe most of all it was because unconsciously I was accepting everyone I met as my friend, or at least not my enemy. According to my philosophy, it isn't necessary for someone to have to prove himself to be my friend before I give him the benefit of the doubt. A person is not unfriendly until, by my standards, he proves he isn't desirous of my company. I've learned that if I accept an acquaintance as a friend we can accomplish so much more together than what we are doing. There is something uncomfortable and limiting about working when there is an air of uncertainty among the people who are doing it.
Because of this feeling of friendship that exists between myself and people I meet, I have come to feel that the greater percentage of people in the world have an innate feeling for friendship, for kindness, and when these are shown, the emotional reaction one gets is wonderful. I suppose a lot of persons today are dubious about accepting the expression that "this is a wonderful world we live in." Fortunately for me, I do not find myself in this group. I honestly feel that I am living in a wonderful world, despite the difficulties of adjustment. And it is to this problem of trying to find a common ground of understanding with people that I bring my really affectionate feelings toward life and the world.
There the hopeful philosophy of Reds Bagnell, one of Pennsylvania's All-American athletes. His remarks furnish us heartening reassurance that the neighborhood sandlot is a source, not only of football stars, but of eager, conscientious citizens as well.