This I Believe

Strebel, Ralph F. (Ralph Frederick)

  • Ralph Strebel, Academic dean of Utica College, talks about his early childhood and his awareness of class and his youthful epiphany that one should have pride in oneself for who they are, not where they come from, and how this realization supports his belief in equality and democracy. He also talks about the need to develop a more spiritual philosophy in the world and abandon the materialistic ... read more
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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. Dr. Ralph F. Strebel is the academic dean of Utica College in New York. His work in the public schools and in universities serve as valuable background for his many books on education. Here is the creed of Dr. Strebel.
It is my good fortune to have been born into an economically modest, though highly respectable, intelligent, and spiritual family. However, throughout my childhood I was sensitive about
my economic status, especially so when in contact with children from the middle and upper classes with whom I associated. Recognizing my social insecurity, my father at one time said to me, "Always remember, it is not who you are but what you are which counts, and so long as you build your life on the foundation of ethical values, you will be a good and productive citizen." This simple, philosophic gem became the foundation upon which I built my life pattern. A series of attitudes began at once to emerge, which became great driving forces in shaping my destiny. It is these and the attendant beliefs which I wish to discuss.
As I look back on
my childhood, I understand more fully how I learned to rely upon myself. Early in life I discovered that those who had a higher socioeconomic status than I seemed to get away to a better start towards successful achievement. However, I also learned that this early advantage soon disappeared if the individuals lacked the other traits and qualities necessary for success. I believe that in free America, the kind of person you are is what is all-important. Wealth and lineage, I find, are not essential for the individual who is willing to work and who has a sound interpretation of the meaning and operation of democratic processes.
Indeed I am most grateful for my humble origin. It, with the good advice I received, became a tremendous stimulus to successful adjustment.
Being firmly convinced at an early age that it really does not matter who you are, I developed a deep-seated attitude against discrimination in any form. It is incomprehensible for me to understand how one can evaluate human beings in any other way than in terms of their expressed human characteristics. "By their works ye shall know them." Shall I accept this Christian concept as a criterion for judging my fellow men, or shall I apply the divisive yardstick of whether or not they may be labeled
Protestant or Catholic or Jew or White or Black or foreign-born or wealthy or first-generation or fourth-generation Americans?
I believe that one who cannot or does not cultivate a genuine attitude of respect for the individual, solely as an individual, is himself neither free nor democratic. His freedom is denied him because of the emotional blocking of freethinking. He is not democratic, because democracy is predicated on the sanctity of the individual, not on his family or his race or his religion, or anything else.
As one who has been nurtured by spiritual values, I cannot help but be impressed by the dangerous implementation
of materialistic values, as I look around the world today. I am sure in my own mind that the desperate situation in which we find ourselves today is due almost wholly to our unwillingness to base our everyday relationships with our fellow men upon the values basic to the religions which we profess to accept. I firmly believe that unless and until we learn to substitute a spiritual and ethical philosophy for the materialistic philosophy, which has all but destroyed us, there is no hope for the future.
That was Dr. Ralph F. Strebel, an educator whose work is not only known in this country, but also in Berlin, where he was in charge of the German school system right after the war.