This I Believe

Henderson, Howard


  • Howard Henderson describes how a series of failures and challenges during his early life and career revealed to him an inner strength and resiliance, and describes his belief that a person's strength comes from being part of a greater whole - family, community, world, or God.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Power is the keynote of our world today: the power in singing high tension lines, in screaming jet engines, and exploding atoms. But Howard Henderson, a vice-president of the J Walter Thompson advertising agency and the father of four children has discovered for himself another kind of power. Perhaps, in the long run, it is the most important power of all, but you be the judge as Mr. Henderson describes his discovery now.
As a boy, I experienced a series of failures, mainly in health and in surviving a tough grade school. Since success was measured in fistfights, which I usually lost, I developed an inner
hunger for something, which would help me get up on my feet and go on no matter how many times I was knocked down. Gradually, I became convinced that there was a mysterious source of inner strength, which was proof against any misfortune and denied to no one.
A crisis in my 24th year highlighted the vivid reality of this inner strength. As a sick stranger in a Denver hospital ward, I half hoped that my fever would end in complete oblivion. For several weeks, I was like a drowning man, struggling in the water of experience, unable to swim but clinging to a blind faith in a will wiser than my own.
Then, in despair, I relaxed and found that I could swim. With a few easy strokes, I felt the water of
experience supporting me instead of pulling me under to drown. My fear was gone, dissolved by a powerful upwelling of inner strength. I had won peace. Later I learned that such peace is lost and must be won again and again. But the power, itself, seemed to be available wherever I earnestly and patiently sought it.
When an instructor in English at Purdue University, my class of budding engineers thought literature a waste of time and wanted to know how Emerson, for example, could help them become better electrical engineers. So I asked them about electricity, and after we had probed it together, a student said, “After all, we can report what electricity does, but we don’t really know what it is.” On that common
ground, the human body, vitalized by its intangible life force, became clear as a motor, alive with electricity, each drawing its power from the same mysterious dynamo. Emerson was a skilled engineer of the human spirit and of the sublime source of its power.
Thirty years of business revealed more of this power. The head of large company once said, “Henderson, you are in charge of our account. If you should go with another company, our business would go with you.” I answered, “Such a move would be unfair to your firm. No one man could have created what we have done for you. It came from all of us, working as a whole. If I am worth anything to you, it is only as a part of my company.”
By himself, a man is nothing. Through the whole of which he is a part, his strength is unlimited. That larger whole may be his family, his company, his community, his world, or his God. From these come his real strength. Through more than 50 years of living, this I firmly believe: Those who seek their own answer directly from the source of all strength and wisdom will find it. In thus saving themselves, they may yet save the world.
Murrow: That was Howard Henderson, a leader of his profession, advertising, and in his community, Bronxville, New York. A graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School, he has served in the United States Navy and taught English at Purdue; but in all his pursuits Howard Henderson has made
it a point to learn strong new things about life and just now he has shared with us some of his lessons of strength.