This I Believe

Toland, Edward Dale


  • Edward Toland describes how his experiences with a French mobile field hospital in WWI changed his perspective and led him to become a teacher after the war, and he describes his belief that loving humanity by practicing the Golden Rule is the best way in which to love God.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Edward D. Toland was for many years head of the history department of St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He is the father of Benjamin Rush Toland, the hero of Iwo Jima, who left his possessions to create better relations for all the people. Here now the father's statement of belief, Edward D. Toland.
When I was twenty-eight, unmarried, and a selfish, snobbish, carefree, and vain young Philadelphia dancing man, I had a very sobering experience, which changed the entire course of my life. This sounds as if I had joined Alcoholic Anonymous, but it wasn’t that.
I was in the investment banking business and taking a holiday in Europe, when World War I broke out. I joined a French mobile field hospital, being able to speak French fluently, and was on the Marne in some fronts from September 1914 until March 1915. I carried stretchers, gave anesthetics, dressed wounds, was an operating room orderly, saw men die of tetanus convulsions, and saw so much of suffering and death that they became just part of the day's work. I also saw extraordinary bravery, coolness under fire, and utter self sacrifice on the part of soldiers, doctors, and nurses.
After that, I made the decision to quit business and return to my old school in New Hampshire, to teach
history and coach athletics. And I did it against the advice of practically every friend except the girl that I subsequently married.
I believe and know that teaching can be a lot of fun if done on a cause and effect basis. Exact knowledge, plus interesting highlights from collateral reading, plus a leavening sense of humor, can make it entertaining for both teacher and classes. Mere memorizing of dates, facts, kings, and battles can make it dull drudgery.
I’ve seen a good deal of leadership—both good and bad—in business, in the AEF, 1917 & ’18, and in public life. And I believe that the qualities necessary for it are exact knowledge, sustained effort, honesty, tolerance,
moral courage, delegation of authority, humility. Very few leaders, like Franklin and Lincoln, have been able to combine all of them. Showmanship is also fairly important to the salesman and politician but is not essential.
I also believe that the ability to retain humility is far more important than is generally supposed. Look what the lack of it finally did to Louis XIV, XV, and XVI; George III; both Napoleons; Mussolini; Hitler; and the thousands of others in all walks of life.
I believe the philosophy of Abu Ben Adam, by Leigh Hunt. It is too long to quote in full, but it is about a man who awoke one night and saw an angel standing in his room. He told the angel that he was uncertain about
his own religious faith and humbly asked to be recorded as “one that loves his fellow men.” The next night, the angel returned and showed him that his name led the entire list, not only in love of man but in love of God. That is all that I believe anyone could ask or hope for. If one actually lives by and practices the Golden Rule, I believe that he is doing God’s will and serving Him.
Those were the beliefs of Edward D. Toland, retired school teacher who lost two of his three children. Now, in spite of his sorrow, his life is full enjoying his grandchildren and former students.